SANTA CLARA — Wide receiver Jauan Jennings knew exactly how to describe Brock Purdy after a milestone in the quarterback’s comeback from elbow surgery.
“Brock-star. We love him out there,” Jennings said Thursday.
Purdy was out there practicing three consecutive days this week for the first time since his March 10 surgery, keeping him firmly on track to start the 49ers’ regular-season opener Sept. 10 in Pittsburgh.
“Being able to go three in a row and get all the volume in and then being able to have my velocity stay on point today, for me, that was huge,” Purdy said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “For my confidence, to make throws on a third day, with the strength and the intensity and all that with there my arm needs to be, it’s definitely getting there.”
When it comes to preseason football, will the 49ers keep Purdy out of danger and not play him in Saturday’s game against the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium? He and every other would-be starter sat out Sunday’s 34-7 loss at the Las Vegas Raiders.
If Purdy sits, it sounds like Sam Darnold would play ahead of Trey Lance, who struggled against the Raiders.
“We’re still figuring out: Is Brock going to get out there for a little bit with the starters? That may well be the case,” general manager John Lynch said on SiriusXM. “Sam’s going to get his opportunities, and then hopefully Trey gets a big chunk in the second half of this game to go show who he is, who he can be, and show everyone all the improvement he’s made.
Purdy certainly got the most work in Thursday’s brisk practice. He took all 26 first-team reps, leaving 11 for Darnold and just five for Lance.
“I checked up on Brock now and then during his recovery, and it’s been going great. That’s all I kept hearing,” Jennings said. “To see Brock come out there (at the start of camp), it meant a lot.”
Jennings made sure to commend the 49ers’ other quarterbacks and how they’ve all made great throws in camp. That wasn’t necessarily the case Thursday: Darnold was 1-of-7 and hurt by two Cameron Latu drops; Lance was 3-of-3; Brandon Allen did not take a full-team rep as he rejoined the team after attending the birth of his second son in Florida.
Purdy said of the four-quarterback room: “There’s no ego. We all want to win at the end of the day, we all want to bring a Super Bowl home, here. We’re doing what it takes to do that. In the locker room, we all have jokes and humor to get well. We step on the field, let’s compete and push each other. What a great group.”
Hounded by near-daily interceptions in camp, Purdy came away with a clean sheet Thursday, once nickel back Isaiah Oliver undercut a route and failed to snag a pass intended for Brandon Aiyuk.
Former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was among those interviewing Purdy after practice on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I don’t think this is an exaggeration: I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in the NFL, in modern history,” Smith said. “Take (Tom) Brady out of that. What he did last year, being the very last pick in the NFL Draft. … Personally speaking, obviously being the No. 1 pick, I was 20 years old, hadn’t played much. It’s hard to compare with what he’s been doing. I’ve been so impressed.”
Smith, who’s continuing this season as an ESPN analyst, praised Purdy for being so “sharp” in the practices he’s observed.
SMITH ON LANCE
Smith called it “incredibly unfair” for the widespread criticism of Lance after his rough debut in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.
“I identify a lot with him. You can see just him carrying a lot of weight,” said Smith, the No. 1 pick in 2005. “The trade of the draft, taken No. 3 overall, huge expectations. You can just see him wanting so bad to go out there and justify that. You don’t want to make a mistake, you hold onto the ball a little too hard, you almost want it too bad.
“It’s hard to fault a kid for thinking that,” Smith added. “The kid’s played five games in the last three years. He’s 23 years old. I think he’s still has an incredibly bright future. Unfortunately he got drafted to a team that’s in a win-now scenario and also happened to hit on the last pick of the draft (in Purdy).”
Three weeks into camp, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw did not practice for the first time, and it’s believed he was feeling ill. Kinlaw started and played 14 snaps Sunday. He was not credited with a tackle. The 49ers’ 2020 first-round draft pick has endured knee issues his previous seasons, but he used this past offseason to work on mobility and stability so his body (6-foot-5, 305 pounds) could be more explosive.
Fellow defensive tackle Arik Armstead did individual conditioning rather than practice, so benefitting most from the extra practice reps were Marlon Davidson, Spencer Waege and Kerry Hyder Jr., while Javon Hargrave and Kevin Givens lined up with the first unit
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Running back Christian McCaffrey did not practice in an apparent rest day. His leadership, however, has influenced Ty Davis-Price, who’s had a solid second training camp. “Whenever I can, I’m always picking his brain on something. He’s a great guy,” Davis-Price said. “You start to get to know them outside of football like at team dinners. He’s amazing.”
One thing McCaffrey has emphasized is patience.
“He’s always told me you never know when it’s going to be your year or it’s going to be your play, so just keep your head down and take it one day at a time,” Davis-Price said, adding that he focused this offseason on understanding the playbook more so he could gain coaches’ trust. He nearly scored on a draw play in red-zone action Thursday.
JENNINGS THE ENFORCER
Sure, you may know Jennings as “Third-and-Jauan” for his specialty of converting with third-down receptions, but he also acts as the offense’s downfield enforcer, to which the Dallas Cowboys can attest.
“My job is also to go out there and hit DBs,” Jennings said. “I weigh 210 (pounds). I have not faced one defensive back who weighs 210, so I have fun.”
Three undrafted offensive linemen — Corey Luciano, Ilm Manning, Joey Fisher — had “first-game issues” Sunday, according to offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who noted that Manning (6-foot-2, 294) has played the best of that trio this camp.
Asked if the 49ers’ starting offensive linemen need to play in the preseason, Foerster noted: “When they come off the field after that first eight- or 10-play drive in the first game of the year, they are flat gassed. No matter how many games you played in the preseason or how many you didn’t, it’s the first real time that you truly exerted everything straining from the snap to whistle.”
Jake Moody made both his field-goal attempts from 34 and 44 yards to end practice, but only after special teams coordinator Brian Schneider “iced” him by calling a timeout, which is what the Raiders did before Moody’s two misses in his NFL debut Sunday. … Tight end George Kittle (groin) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (hamstring) ran on the side. Defensive linemen Drake Jackson (hamstring) and Kalia Davis (hamstring) worked on the side, too, only in full uniform. … Ronnie Bell served as the primary punt returner. … Former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith was at the 49ers’ facility as he continues his foray into a broadcasting career. He’ll work again this season as an ESPN analyst, and he was part of SiriusXM NFL’s broadcast Thursday.