Niners' Brock Purdy says elbow feels normal; not 'scared' of hits

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Late in Monday's practice, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy dropped back to throw, scanning the field when suddenly defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell reached up and knocked the ball away from him.

In that moment, coach Kyle Shanahan and many onlookers couldn't help but flash back to the first quarter play in the NFC Championship Game when Philadelphia Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick hit Purdy from the side on a similar play that resulted in Purdy tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

"I had to hold my breath so I didn't lose my mind," Shanahan said.

Ferrell, who signed with the Niners as a free agent in March, immediately apologized and walked away before drawing Shanahan's ire, but it helped that the one person who was most unaffected by it was Purdy.

That alone might be one of the biggest benchmarks Purdy has surpassed so far in his recovery from the elbow injury that required a March 10 surgery and a nearly five-month rehabilitation plan that is now in its final stages.

"I feel like as a coach or a teammate watching, yeah, they might be scared about that, especially how things ended last year with my arm," Purdy said. "But honestly for myself, it's just football. I wasn't even thinking about it."

Purdy is now 11 days and eight practices into this training camp, and all signs continue to point toward him being fully cleared soon and handling starting quarterback duties when the Niners open the regular season on Sept. 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For now, Purdy is still following the "two practices on, one practice off" plan that was set forth for him before camp. On the days Purdy participates, he has worked exclusively with the starting offense, including a whopping 32 reps in Friday's lengthy practice.

Shanahan has said that Purdy could be ready to eliminate the required day off within two weeks from the start of camp. That means it's possible Purdy will have that clearance in time for next week's joint practices with the Las Vegas Raiders.

"We've got to finish out this week first and then sort of talk about some things and go from there," Purdy said. "But you know, as of now we're just doing the two days on, one day off, and going from there and throwing and see how I feel. I feel great."

It's still unclear whether Purdy will play in the Aug. 13 preseason opener against the Raiders in Las Vegas. That will be the next test for Purdy, who has not taken a hit since suffering the injury on Jan. 29.

But Purdy says he is more concerned with improving on the football side than leaping any mental hurdles. On Friday, he said he is thinking about simple things like getting in and out of the huddle and timing with his receivers rather than what's next on his road back to games.

"It's not really, 'Hey, I have to get tackled here just so I feel good about my arm,'" Purdy said. "There's nothing like that that goes through my mind. I just play football, I go through my reads and I feel normal, so it's not like I'm out there timid or scared about a certain hit or anything like that, you know? Honestly, I feel good."

The fact that Purdy feels good has only buoyed the confidence of his coaches and teammates. Quarterbacks coach Brian Griese said Purdy is throwing the ball about 110 times on the days he practices. He said he has been encouraged that Purdy hasn't dealt with any soreness beyond what any quarterback would have after such a workload.

Shanahan has seen enough to also not be concerned with the elbow injury anymore and wants to focus on helping Purdy take steps forward as he enters his first full season as San Francisco's starter.

"That's completely off my mind," Shanahan said. "We're not worried about Brock. Brock's the real deal. He knows how to play and we've just got to have our team keep getting better and he'll keep getting better as we go."