PHOENIX – San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is leaving the door open for quarterback Trey Lance to regain his starting position back.
The 49ers have established that Brock Purdy is the clear front-runner for the role after he went 5-0 in the regular season as a rookie and helped lead the club to the NFC championship game. But Purdy’s unclear recovery timeline from an elbow injury in the conference title game against the Philadelphia Eagles has given Lance an opportunity to make a push for the No. 1 job this spring and summer.
Still, both Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch have made it clear this week that Purdy has the edge over Lance, who is also on the mend from a broken ankle suffered last September.
“I think it would’ve been pretty easy if Brock was healthy because the way Brock played last year. He’d be the starter going into it. Trey had that position going into (last) year,” Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL’s annual league meeting. “Brock played eight games and won all of them and played at an extremely high level. We are very excited to have that level of a player as our quarterback.
"Now, we believe Trey can be that. I think he would’ve done it last year if he stayed healthy. The good thing for him with Brock being hurt he has an opportunity to try to regain that and everything.”
Shanahan told reporters that he informed Lance of the team’s current quarterback pecking order and that the third-year passer has handled the situation well.
“It’s as good as it can be. Trey is a great person, but he’s also smart and knows what he saw. He knows the level Brock played at, so he understands that,” Shanahan said. “He gets it.”
Lance hasn’t played a full season since his 2019 sophomore year at North Dakota State, and he has just 102 passing attempts since the 49ers drafted him No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL draft.
Lance is averaging 99.6 passing yards a game and has an 84.5 passer rating in eight career regular-season games, while Purdy registered 152.7 passing yards per contest and has a 107.3 passer rating.
But Purdy’s status for training camp and even the start of the regular season is unclear, Shanahan said Tuesday, as the second year passer continues to recover.
“I think Trey is just excited to be healthy and excited to come in and get those reps and show us what he can do,” Shanahan said. “We are going to start whoever gives us the best chance to win. Brock is the guy who is leading that because we’ve seen him play. But he’s hurt right now, and I don’t know if we’ll have him Week 1 and I don’t know if we’ll have him in training camp. There’s a possibility in all that.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trey Lance has slim opening in 49ers QB race with Brock Purdy injured