With 49ers offseason practices now beginning, Niner Noise looks at the news from the week, including Trey Lance talking about finger recovery.
Understandably, when someone discusses San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance's recovery, they're likely talking about the road back from a serious ankle break suffered in Week 2 of the 2022 season, the year in which Lance was supposed to be cemented as the Niners' full-time starter.
They don't, however, much discuss Lance's broken finger suffered the previous year in the preseason.
It makes some sense. After all, Lance has had a whirlwind of an offseason that has included trade rumors, meetups and practices with Kansas City Chiefs MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a high-profile depth-chart battle with fellow San Francisco signal-callers Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold and more.
There's no time to talk pointer fingers, right?
Trey Lance discusses out 2021 finger injury set his development back
Aside from the glaring lack of pro-level experience over the last two years, one of the call-outs Lance has frequently received has been about his accuracy.
In a 2021 preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Lance's throwing hand struck the helmet of a Raiders player, fracturing his pointer finger. While recovery was supposed to be easy and seamless, according to Lance, the injury had a long-lasting effect, as he told as much to reporters earlier this week:
"It was definitely the hardest on it because I couldn’t straighten it. It was my pointer finger and I couldn’t straighten it after that third preseason game when it happened, but coming through my rookie year and finishing that, my goal that offseason was to get as healthy as possible. First and foremost, just to be able to get my finger as straight as I can and I felt like I got close to that point, but spent a lot more time rehabbing that and trying to figure that out and relearn my grip and throwing everything like that than I did versus this offseason, being able to focus on the things that I need to focus on."
When asked whether or not the finger impacted the rest of his upper body, Lance was brutally honest:
"Wrist, hand, arm, shoulder, it all kind of connects obviously. Yeah, it bugged a lot of other things and it was hard to find a way to throw finishing off my middle finger and changing my grip and things like that."
Lance spent part of the offseason working with private quarterbacks coach Jeff Christensen, with whom Mahomes is also a client, and the two revamped the former's throwing motion to both cut down on arm fatigue and improve accuracy.
Now, with Purdy still recovering from his own offseason surgery, Lance has a chance to showcase that improved delivery.
Kyle Shanahan 'optimistic' Brock Purdy can be back by Week 1
Speaking of Purdy, signs still point to him being QB1 for the 49ers this season because of last year's success and despite his UCL tear suffered in the NFC Championship game last January.
Surgery still endangers whether or not the second-year pro will be able to play to start the year, but head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that there's a good chance Purdy will be back by the regular season:
"Only God knows and it’s all estimates, so it depends what quote people have got from me, but we’re hoping for Week 1 and I feel pretty optimistic about that. That’s what we’re hoping for, that he’ll be ready to play in Week 1 and usually, that doesn’t mean that’s the day he comes back."
While it might not be as epic as Shanahan's 2022 "I can't guarantee anyone in the world will be alive on Sunday" quote, tossing out an "only God knows" line is pretty good.
Just because Purdy is getting close to throwing again doesn't mean he'll have his arm strength up to speed.
He'll also have both Lance and Darnold trying to push him down the depth chart.
49ers' new faces making good early impressions during OTAs
It's important to recognize that organized team activities (OTAs) don't mean much in the grand scheme of things.
There are no pads, no physical contact and much of the drills are 7-on-7 and not a full 11-on-11.
However, it is fun to see which players are performing at or above standard and which ones aren't, Early on, it's looking as if some of the Niners' new players are standing out for the right reasons.
The three in particular? Veteran nickel back Isaiah Oliver, and two of San Francisco's rookie draft picks, cornerback Darrell Luter Jr. and wide receiver Ronnie Bell, were all receiving encouragement from All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner during practices, according to NBC Sports Bay Area's Jennifer Lee Chan:
"Plays by both defensive backs Darrell Luter and Isaiah Oliver incited the All-Pro’s fervor. Both defenders had multiple pass breakups and made non-contact stops. On the other side of the ball, Bell was the standout receiver on offense catching passes from each of the three quarterbacks. "
Again, these early sessions mean little in the grand scheme of things, but at least it's a positive sign to have some of the 49ers' new additions making an impact.