SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The biggest newsmaker from the 49ers’ OTA practice on Tuesday hasn’t practiced at all.
Quarterback Brock Purdy, who has been limited to throwing light objects like towels so far this month, said he’s on track to throw the football next week, the biggest step yet in his recovery from elbow surgery. That puts him on schedule — and maybe two days early — to come back in full force at some point before the regular season begins.
“I feel good, the arm was good,” Purdy said after the workout.
Coach Kyle Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch have said for months that they are optimistic Purdy will return to practice at some point in training camp and be ready for the team’s first regular season game, which is Sept. 10 in Pittsburgh. Asked Tuesday if that meant early in training camp or late in those sessions, Shanahan declined to give a specific schedule.
“Hopefully in the first week,” he said of Byrdie’s readiness. “And we feel very optimistic about that.”
Purdy has been slowly gaining strength in his arm since his March 10 procedure, and he said everything is back to normal with the arm. For example, he said he lifts weights as he usually does.
But up to this point, he has not tried to throw the soccer ball. He has been alongside the team’s other players since the start of the off-season program. But when they’d run back and kick the soccer ball in practices, he’d use a washcloth.
“Brooke is healthy in every other way,” Shanahan said. “So for Brock, to still be able to do his drops, all his footwork and stuff and you[also]want to be able to simulate the motion of throwing. And that’s hard with nothing in your arm. So we use a towel instead.”
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The 49ers trained on Monday as well, but Tuesday’s OTA was the first that was open to reporters. Below are other notes.
• Trey Lance, who spent part of his offseason with pitching coach Jeff Christensen in Dallas, seemed like he was a smoother, tighter delivery. With Purdy out of action, Lance took all of the first team’s repeats while Sam Darnold worked the second team’s set.
Shanahan said that will “pass” over time as Darnold becomes more familiar with the crime. He also noted that at this point in the offseason, practices consist primarily of seven-on-seven situations and none of the 49ers’ top receivers are involved. So “first team” offense is a relative term.
Lance said he began to feel fully recovered in late March from the ankle injury that ended his season in 2022 and is as healthy as he has been for a while. This time last year, he was still dealing with the effects of a broken index finger in 2021 that forced him to re-learn how to properly grip his football.
“The wrist, the hand, the arm, the shoulder — obviously they’re all connected,” he said. “Yeah, I’ve been bothered by a lot of other things and it was hard to find a way to throw (with the ball) finish my middle finger, change my grip and things like that.”
He said he “focused on the things I need to focus on.”
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• Training on Tuesdays from seven to seven means no workers in the field. Lance and Darnold both finished 11-for-15 in their attempts. Darnold appeared to be the more aggressive of the two, including a deep pass down the sideline to speedster Danny Gray.
The most accurate passer was fourth quarterback, Brandon Allen. He was 6-for-6 in his attempts, which included a long pass down the middle of the field to tight end Troy Fumagalli.
• A number of the 49 prominent personalities either did not attend the voluntary practice or were prevented from attending the session as a precautionary measure. That list included Nick Bosa, Trent Williams, Debo Samuel, Javon Hargrave, Talanoa Hovanga and Ray Ray McCloud.
Fred Warner was present and helped coach young midfielders such as Marcelino McCrary-Poole, who lined up at centre-back. But Warner did not participate. The same was true of fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw, cornerback Charvarius Ward and receiver Joanne Jennings.
• The two most famous coaches involved: running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end George Kittle. McCaffrey appeared to be training at regular season pace.
“I’m used to it,” Darnold, who was a teammate of McCaffrey’s at Carolina, said after practice. “He has a work ethic that will never change.”
• The standout defensive player on Tuesday was the team’s new nickel linebacker, Isaiah Oliver. At just over 6 feet tall and weighing nearly 205 pounds, Oliver is the largest player the team has had at the position in recent memory.
He had no problem moving his weight. He cut two short passes from Lance and one from Darnold and seemed to be all over the field. Oliver wears number 22, the same number that nickelback cornerback Carlos Rogers wore when he was with San Francisco a decade ago.
• While Oliver was prolific, the best defensive play was converted by rookie linebacker Darrell Lutter Jr. And the fifth-round pick appeared to be a step behind Gray when Darnold unleashed a deep pass down the sideline. But he took notice of the play and blasted the ball wide, prompting fellow defensive backs to run down the sideline to congratulate him.
• With no exercise out, Diodore Lenoir and Samuel Womack III were first basemen on the team. Lotter and Ambry-Thomas worked with the second unit. With Hufanga absent, Tashaun Gipson Sr. was in charge. and George Odum are the first line safety with top draft pick Ji’Ayir Brown and Tayler Hawkins running with the second pick. Another defensive back, Qwuantrezz Knight, was a hand on a team and had not practiced.
• Two other notable rookies on Tuesday: Seventh-round picks Brayden Willis and Ronnie Bell. Willis had a nice one-handed hitch off a Darnold fastball in the middle of the field. Meanwhile, Bell was the most prolific wide receiver of the day, just as he was in the 49ers’ rookie junior camp earlier this month. This is the beginning of the spring season, of course, and it is impossible to make any real assessments. But suffice it to say, Bill is off to a good start.
• With Williams absent, Jaylon Moore lined up at left tackle with a first-team unit. Colton McEvitz is, as expected, the new right starter, taking over for Mike McGlinchey, who signed with the Broncos in the offseason.
• Two defensive line players, Bossa and Hargrave, were absent. The starting spots were filled by Drake Jackson and Javon Kinlaw, respectively. Jackson looks more muscular, especially in his upper body, than he did a year ago. Meanwhile, Kinlaw is looking slimmer and beginning to resemble his taller linear colleague Eric Armstead in terms of his silhouette.
• Finally, here’s what happened in the 49ers’ kicker battle: Rookie Jake Moody and veteran Zane Gonzalez each got four tries, the last from about 50 yards from the right hashmark into the wind. They both made their first three attempts…but missed the fourth try left.
(Tree Lance top photo on Tuesday: Godofredo A. Vásquez/Associated Press)