SANTA CLARA — Brock Purdy is having a whirlwind year, to say nothing of his 2022, when he went from the NFL Draft’s last pick to the 49ers’ unbeaten (and No. 3) quarterback.
What happened next? Here are the mile markers of Purdy’s comeback bid entering Sunday’s regular-season opener at Pittsburgh:
Jan. 29: The ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow is torn when struck by Philadelphia Eagles pass rusher Hasson Reddick, six plays into the 49ers’ opening possession (second-and-6 from the 50-year line) of their ensuing 31-7 loss in the NFC Championship Game at hostile Lincoln Financial Field. That ended the 49ers’ 12-game win streak, the final eight of which were led by Purdy, including playoff wins at home over Seattle and Dallas.
Feb. 22: Purdy’s initial date for surgery is postponed after Dr. Keith Meister’s examination reveals that Purdy’s elbow remains swollen. Over a week later, a follow-up exam takes place in Purdy’s home state of Arizona, where Dr. Meister doubles as the Texas Rangers’ physician at spring training.
March 10: Purdy undergoes surgery in Arlington, Texas, where Dr. Meister uses an InternalBrace repair on the torn UCL. That affords a potential return of six months, as opposed to a Tommy John-type reconstruction that typically sidelines patients for a year.
March 27: General manager John Lynch, at the annual league meeting, calls Purdy “probably the leader in the clubhouse” for the 49ers’ starting job, saying he’s “earned that right.” Coach Kyle Shanahan cautions the following the day that Purdy might not return until Week 4 of the regular season, depending on how his comeback looks come June.
March 31: Wearing a hinged elbow brace, Purdy tells Fox Sports 910-AM in Phoenix: “Out in public, it looks like I have a robotic arm.” He conducts range-of-motion exercises and strength training with physical therapist Keith Kocher in Gilbert, Arizona.
April 17: Purdy joins 49ers teammates at their Santa Clara headquarters for the start of the offseason program, which mainly consists of meetings and conditioning the first few weeks.
April 21: Purdy draws a loud ovation while attending a San Francisco Giants game, prompting him to not only stand and wave to the crowd, but to also show impressive mobility with his arm while exchanging high-fives with a fan.
May 29: Barely 11 weeks out of surgery, Purdy begins a throwing program, signaling his recovery is perhaps a week ahead of schedule. “We’re incredibly encouraged by that,” Lynch said two days later on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “He’s hitting all his marks and that doesn’t surprise us, because he’s putting in all the work.”
May 31: Purdy executes his second throwing session. “I saw him moving around, throwing it a little bit,” wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk said. “I haven’t caught with him. But, yeah, I talked to him and he’s the same old Brock. He’s doing good.”
June 26: His comeback tour reaches Jacksonville, Fla., so he can work on his mechanics with private quarterbacks coach Will Hewlett and orthopedic specialist Tom Gormely, both of whom worked with Purdy last year prior to the draft. A week later, Purdy announced his engagement to Jenna Brandt, to which Christian McCaffrey reacted on Instagram with this comment: “Yessir! The President.”
July 25: Purdy is medically cleared as training camp begins, avoiding the Physically Unable To Perform list. His prescribed path over the ensuing weeks: throw back-to-back days, then take a day off, and repeat.
Aug. 17: Purdy throws for a third straight day, and with “my velocity staying on point, for me, that was huge.”
Aug. 19: Levi’s Stadium welcomes the 49ers back for a preseason win over the Denver Broncos, and Purdy plays nine snaps in the opening scoring drive (4-of-5 passing for 65 yards, plus an 8-yard run to the 2-yard line).
Kurtenbach: The 49ers are held to higher standards than other NFL teams. This year’s team could meet them
Ranking the 49ers’ newcomers by expected impact
49ers at Steelers: 5 keys to win in Pittsburgh in Brock Purdy’s comeback
49ers’ Nick Bosa is good to go, but it’s wait and see on George Kittle vs. Steelers
Nick Bosa officially signs contract, ‘so excited to be a Niner for life’
Aug. 25: An 8-yard touchdown run caps Purdy’s two-series, 19-snap cameo (5-of-9, 73 yards) in the preseason finale against the Chargers, hours after Trey Lance got traded to the Dallas Cowboys.
Aug. 31: Week 0 sees the 49ers deploy a “de-loading” plan that cuts Purdy’s pitch count in half, from the normal 700 per week, in an effort to freshen him up for the season.
Sept. 10: Six months since his elbow surgery, Purdy will start a season opener for the first time since 2021. That’s when Iowa State’s senior captain pulled out a 16-10 home win over Northern Iowa, completing 21-of-26 passes for 199 yards and rushing nine times for 58 yards.