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SANTA CLARA — Brock Purdy will quarterback the 49ers in 2023.
Of course, that statement will hold true come New Year’s Day, when the 49ers (11-4) make their first-ever visit to the Las Vegas Raiders (6-9) for Sunday’s 1:05 p.m. kickoff at Allegiant Stadium.
Has Purdy’s stunning, undefeated entrance to the NFL ranks prompted coach Kyle Shanahan to look ahead to next season’s starting role, a job that began this season with Trey Lance and then returned to Jimmy Garoppolo before their respective injuries?
“I’m trying to think about how to get him ready for Wednesday, man,” Shanahan said to cap Monday’s media conference call. “It’s a great question, but, honestly I don’t look ahead like that.
“We have a number of big games in front of us.”
The 49ers take an eight-game win streak into their Vegas act, then host their regular-season finale against the Arizona Cardinals (4-11) before making a third trip to the playoffs in the past four seasons.
Once snake-bitten by injuries, the 49ers are getting healthier and healthier, with no injuries to report from Saturday’s 37-20 win over the Washington Commanders.
Purdy’s health was a major concern two weeks ago because of oblique and rib injuries he sustained in winning his first start, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On Saturday, he became the first 49ers’ quarterback ever to win his first three career starts, and, “he got out healthy again, that should continue to heal up, and he should be better this with more time,” Shanahan said.
Garoppolo, Shanahan confirmed, got his hard cast off his fractured foot a week ago but offered no other update.
Purdy got sacked three times — as many as he did upon relieving Garoppolo in a Dec. 4 win over Miami, but Shanahan hailed Purdy’s decision making, en route to a fourth straight game with two touchdown passes.
“He was smart with the ball,” said Shanahan, noting there were a couple of plays the Commanders sent an unblocked player to thwart a play and endanger Purdy. “The play was almost there and he did a great job of not doing anything stupid in some tough situations.
“He’s shown he’s willing to let it rip at all times. There were times in the games they got an unblocked guy to him and he made a couple right decisions to just take the sack.”
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is “making real good progress and still working his way back” from sprains to his right knee and ankle, Shanahan said. Samuel missed the past two games since being carted off with that leg injury, but he was seen doing individual conditioning last week. “We’ll see how it goes in the next two days of rehab. We’ll see later in the week,” Shanahan said of Samuel’s availability for practice and Sunday’s game.
MITCHELL GETTING CLOSE
Running back Elijah Mitchell is on the verge of returning from his second knee sprain this season, though he likely won’t practice until Friday or next week. “He’s had no setbacks and is doing well. We’ll see if he’s available next week for us,” Shanahan said.
Mitchell would thus become the eighth and final player the 49ers can activate off the injured reserve list. Shanahan said that slot is essentially between Mitchell and Hassan Ridgeway, who strained a pectoral muscle Dec. 4; Lance is also recovering on injured reserve but Shanahan has maintained that he’s done for the season.
The 49ers’ spent one of their short-term IR spots on linebacker Curtis Robinson for his potential on special teams; he was waived last week and is expected to return on the practice squad. Shanahan endorsed the concept of adding more short-term IR spots for the playoffs.
Mitchell would bolster a running back corps that’s seen the 49ers go 8-0 since Christian McCaffrey’s insertion as the starter. Jordan Mason escaped a hamstring-injury scare Saturday and his hamstring is doing well after getting tight from Wednesday’s practice; he got sent home ill Monday, however.
Ty Davis-Price had nine carries for 30 yards in his first action in two months. Shanahan commended Davis-Price for avoiding a potential fumble on the first series when he was stopped a yard shy of a first down.
Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw “checked out great” in the wake of his 16-snap return Saturday, after a three-month hiatus related to swelling in his surgically repaired right knee. “It was a successful game and even more successful since he looked good today,” sais Shanahan, who commended Kinlaw for taking on a double-team block on fourth-and-1 and allowing Fred Warner to make the touchdown-saving stop.
While the Miami Dolphins (8-7) and the New York Jets (7-8) are in wild-card contention with coaches who formerly were 49ers’ assistants, more and more opportunities are arising for defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to follow the leads of Mike McDaniel (Dolphins) and Robert Saleh (Jets).
The Denver Broncos, in firing Nathaniel Hackett on Monday, became the third team to call on an interim coach to finish out this season, as the Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts also have done. Ryans, after his first season replacing Saleh, was a candidate for the Vikings’ post a year ago before declining a second interview. Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan probably could put in a good word for Ryans in Denver, as if he needs it.
Led by Pro Bowlers Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Talanoa Hufanga, Ryans’ unit is the NFL’s best in allowing the fewest points (15.3 per game), total yards (290.3), rushing yards (75.0) and first downs (16.7). The 49ers’ 15 interceptions are two shy of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL lead.
What is 49ers’ New Year’s plan for Brock Purdy? Just play Raiders, baby
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