49ers are juggling 4 quarterbacks at start of camp after QB injuries derailed 2022 season

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JULY 27: Trey Lance #5 of the San Francisco 49ers works out during training camp at SAP Performance Facility on July 27, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

After ending last season with no healthy quarterbacks, the San Francisco 49ers are starting this season trying to juggle practice time for four of them.

Starter Brock Purdy is only participating in two out of every three practices to start camp as he works his way back from off-season elbow surgery. That has allowed Trey Lance and Sam Darnold to split time with the first and second-team offenses when Purdy is sitting and share time as second-teamers when Purdy practices.

Fourth-stringer Brandon Allen has gotten a good share of snaps during team drills so far, working mostly with the third team as the Niners were impressed with his play in the offseason and want to keep him in the mix even though there are three QBs ahead of him on the depth chart.

San Francisco’s reluctance to pare down the QB room comes after injuries at the position derailed the Niners 2022 season. Lance went down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2 and was replaced by Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo then started the next 10 games before breaking his foot, giving Purdy the shot to start as a rookie after being drafted last overall.

Purdy won his first seven starts before injuring his elbow on the opening drive of the NFC title game loss at Philadelphia. Backup Josh Johnson came in and got a concussion, forcing the Niners to play most of the second half with Purdy unable to throw the ball more than a few yards downfield.

While the shuffling might seem to make it harder for receivers to find a rhythm, Brandon Aiyuk said that hasn’t been a concern.

"If I’m getting to my spots, the quarterback is supposed to get it to the exact same spot whether it’s Brock or (Brandon), it doesn’t really matter. What matters is getting to a spot and finding the ball," he said. "As a receiver you like going out there when you have four guys who can put it right were it needs to be."

This wasn’t the spot Lance expected to be in after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021. But Lance started only two games as a rookie behind Garoppolo and played less than five quarters a year ago.

Now he is battling just to be the backup and is uncertain how big a role he will play this season.


Former 49ers player Frank Gore rejoins team as football advisor

Former San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore has joined the team's front office as a football advisor, according to reports. 

"We haven’t had any conversations," he said. "I find out right before practice or whatever, what the rep count is going to be. I just take advantage of every rep."

Lance got the first snaps with the starters at practice Sunday with Darnold also working his way in with the first-team offense.

The passing game looked good with the offense taking advantage of a few blown coverages and blitzes. Lance hit tight end George Kittle on a nice deep strike early in practice, found Chris Conley on a TD in the red zone and also had a scramble for a score.

Darnold formed a good chemistry with Aiyuk on some crossing patterns that would have been big plays and also hit Deebo Samuel on a big pass as he tries to live up to the billing that made him the No. 3 overall pick by the Jets in 2018.

Darnold’s 78.2 career passer rating with the Jets and Carolina is the lowest among the 36 QBs with at least 1,000 attempts since he entered the league but he has never had the opportunity to play on an offense as skilled as the 49ers.

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JULY 27: Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers works out during training camp at SAP Performance Facility on July 27, 2023 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

"Very talented guy," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Everyone has really liked working with him. The team loves him. He’s doing some good things out there and getting more and more comfortable every day."

Purdy will be back with the first team on Monday when the Niners practice in pads for the first time. He took part in practices last Thursday and Friday but is being eased back in after the surgery.

The plan is for Purdy to practice Monday and Tuesday and then get the off day on Wednesday and Thursday’s practice to rest his arm before getting back into practice on Friday.

"I think he’s done great," Shanahan said. "He’s come back, had no arm troubles. He’s been totally healthy. He’s getting all his timing back and rhythm. I was really impressed with him those first two practices."

NOTES: Shanahan had no update on the status of Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa, who is holding out in search of a long-term contract. ... LT Trent Williams got a veteran day off and CB Charvarius Ward sat out team drills with tightness in his groin. ... Frank Gore, who recently joined the front office, was at practice with 2005 draft class teammate Alex Smith.