A dominant season for the 49ers ended with a whimper Sunday, when San Francisco dropped the NFC championship game 31-7 to end what was an outstanding season.
The loss so one-sided partially because the 49ers lost the ability to throw the ball in the second half, after Brock Purdy was forced to return to the game with an injured arm when Josh Johnson was knocked out.
Purdy and the 49ers’ passing offense was rendered inert, with the quarterback attempting just two passes upon his second-half return.
The initial injury came on the first series of the game, when Purdy’s arm was hit by a charging Haason Reddick, forcing a fumble. Purdy seemingly told Shanahan he couldn’t throw with the arm injury on the sideline, but the Niners’ hand was forced when Johnson suffered his injury early in the second half.
What is Brock Purdy’s injury?
Per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, Purdy suffered a complete tear in his UCL, an MRI Monday showed.
#49ers QB Brock Purdy suffered a complete tear of the UCL in his throwing elbow and will undergo surgery, per sources.
Purdy is getting second opinions, but the initial hope is he can undergo a repair — not reconstruction (AKA Tommy John) — and will be ready for training camp. pic.twitter.com/dFGQGpPALw
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 30, 2023
According to Pelissero, Purdy will undergo surgery for the injury, but the hope is it will be a repair, rather than Tommy John surgery.
According to Adam Schefter, Purdy is looking to avoid surgery at all and is seeking second opinions.
Brock Purdy is seeking second medical opinions about whether he needs surgery, per source. 49ers are recommending surgery but no decisions yet. https://t.co/GdMokH4pDe
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 30, 2023
Torn UCL recovery timeline
A repair on Purdy’s arm would give him a standard recovery of about six months, meaning if he got surgery on Tuesday, he would be ready to return right around July.
If the 49ers’ initial hopes are incorrect and Purdy requires Tommy John surgery, he would likely be looking at about a full year of recovery, which would obviously sideline him for the 2022 season. Jake Delhomme got the surgery in October 2007 and he was back by September 2008, although that was after chronic arm pain.
In the baseball world, Bryce Harper had Tommy John surgery after the season in November and could be back by mid-May. Because a quarterback’s strain is somewhere between an MLB pitcher and an MLB outfielder, erring toward the pitcher, it’s difficult to say exactly how long he would miss with modern day rehabilitation, which is more conservative with pitchers and more aggressive with position players.
With that being said, if Purdy is able to avoid Tommy John surgery, that would be the best case scenario and he could be back in time to at least spend time with the team during the summer, which will be important in a crowded 49ers QB room.
What does this mean for 49ers QB situation?
In an interesting twist, Purdy’s injury might mean a reunion between Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers.
It’s often said if you have two starting quarterbacks you don’t have a quarterback. Somehow, the 49ers have three of Schrödinger’s QBs: They have three viable ones on the roster until March 15, but they won’t know the status of any of them until later.
Trey Lance is expected to recover in time for a full return in the 2023 season from an ankle injury, but Garoppolo is the one whose return to 100 percent is the most surefire. And with the 49ers’ QB issues this year, they’ll want to carry at least two viable options next season.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if the 49ers re-up Garoppolo’s tenure with the team after signing him to a surprising one-year, $7 million contract last offseason. The 49ers were 7-3 with him starting this year and he was a steady presence, something that is invaluable for a team with great coaching.
Of course, they could look to add a free agent like Tom Brady, who has strong ties to the Bay Area.
The 49ers have some hard decisions to make this offseason.
As for Purdy, second opinions will shed light his long-term status, but a full UCL tear is ominous, to say the least. Once there’s confirmation of what “repairs” are necessary, it will be easier to prognosticate any kind of return for 2022’s rookie sensation.