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49ers’ Brock Purdy has 'successful' surgery, could resume throwing in 3 months

San Francisco Chronicle 3/10/2023 Eric Branch
© Scott Strazzante, The Chronicle

It appears the San Francisco 49ers finally can exhale: The injury that essentially ended their 2022 season is less likely to derail them in 2023.

After spending 40 anxious days in limbo, the 49ers received good news Friday as quarterback Brock Purdy had what they termed “successful” elbow surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament that was torn in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 29.

Purdy is expected to be able to resume throwing in three months after the Texas Rangers’ team physician, Dr. Keith Meister, performed the procedure in the Dallas area. Meister used the internal-brace technique, which involves sutures and screws to stabilize the ligament. Both head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have said the expectation is that Purdy would be ready to return in about six months – around the start of the regular season – if the internal-brace technique was used.  A source declined to provide a rough full-recovery timeline Friday.

The surgery resulted in the expected outcome, but it wasn’t guaranteed. Purdy had said Meister could elect to perform a “hybrid” surgery, which involves a graft and longer recovery timeline, if Purdy's UCL had sustained more damage than what had been revealed by MRI exams.

It’s notable that the first Sunday of the NFL regular season is Sept. 10, exactly six months from Purdy’s surgery. Given the apparently tight timeline, it’s possible Purdy won’t be ready by Week 1, which likely would leave Trey Lance to assume his spot.

Purdy’s surgery, which initially was scheduled for Feb. 22, was delayed because of ongoing inflammation in his elbow.  Friday’s procedure provides the 49ers with at least some much-needed clarity just before the start of free agency, which unofficially begins Monday with a two-day period in which teams and players can negotiate but can’t sign contracts.

The encouraging surgical outcome likely means the 49ers won’t be in the market for a free-agent QB with extensive starting experience such as Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater or Baker Mayfield.

They could target a mid-tier option who would be comfortable spending most of the season as the third-stringer behind Purdy and Lance. Two former 49ers QBs who are unrestricted free agents, Nick Mullens and Nate Sudfeld, could fit that profile.

With Purdy and Lance as their only quarterbacks under contract for next season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the 49ers added a fourth QB in the draft. The 49ers have 11 picks, with eight in the final three rounds.

The 49ers, of course, were richly rewarded for using a late-round pick on Purdy last season. After he was the 262nd and final pick of the draft, Purdy became one of the biggest stories of the NFL season once Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo were both shelved with season-ending injuries by early December.

Purdy went 5-0 in the regular season, becoming the only QB since 1950 to win his first five career starts while throwing at least two touchdown passes in each game. He also became the second rookie in the Super Bowl era to have at least two scoring passes in six straight games. In the postseason, Purdy became the third rookie since 1970 to win two playoff games.

His stunning debut, however, ended painfully in a 31-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC title game. Purdy’s UCL was torn when he was hit by  linebacker Haason Reddick on the 49ers’ sixth play. Purdy returned to the game in the third quarter after his backup, Josh Johnson, was sidelined with a concussion, but threw only two short passes in the final 25 minutes because of his injury.

Eric Branch covers the 49ers for the San Francisco Chronicle:; Twitter: @Eric_Branch

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