Trey Lance has no desire to start over even though his path to becoming the franchise quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers has many obstacles.
After the Niners traded three first-round picks to select him third overall in 2021, Lance has started just four games after serving as a backup for most of his rookie season and getting injured most of last year.
Now entering his third season behind former Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy, who went from being the last pick in the 2022 draft to being the presumptive starter in San Francisco as long as he recovers from offseason elbow surgery.
That led some teams to check if the Niners were ready to move on from Lance, but he had no interest in a trade, though it did give him a clearer path to becoming a full-time starter.
“I knew where I wanted to be,” he said. “I just want the opportunity to compete. I love it here. I love the coaching staff… I love the quarter room, I love the guys in the locker room. Definitely for me, this is absolutely where I want to be.”
Lance said he thinks he’s in his best mental state since entering the league. The stress of learning a new offense as a freshman and returning last spring from a finger injury that disrupted his pitching motion and contributed to a tired arm is now gone.
Lance is also fully recovered from the broken ankle that cut short his sophomore season in Week 2 and can now focus on making the subtle improvements necessary to be a good starting quarterback in the NFL.
“I really feel like I’m having fun playing football again,” he said. “It’s hard these early years, especially my freshman year and then last year, I thought I’d be able to get to that point of not having to be so stressed and worried and have a better understanding of the attack and defense and finally I feel like I’m able to have fun and enjoy it again. Obviously there are ups and downs and there’s stress and anxiety that comes with playing the position and playing football, but that’s the better than I’ve felt for sure.”
Lance spent part of the offseason working with Patrick Mahomes, and pitching coach Jeff Christensen and pitching coach Kyle Shanahan have seen positive results in his footwork during the early parts of on-field work this spring.
Shanahan said Lance wasn’t able to work on that aspect of his game last offseason because the priority was getting back to his normal pitching motion that was thrown when he broke a finger in the preseason as a rookie and went be forced to modify its delivery.
“I think he spent most of his time working with the flu, trying to get him back, which is usually a prerequisite, but because of his circumstances, he went into it, so he was late working on the other things,” Shanahan said. . “This year, he went into this offseason knowing exactly what he needed to work on football-wise and I think that’s why he’s going ahead of last year.”
While Lance may have stepped up last year in his playmaking, he has fallen down the pecking order as a quarterback.
Purdy took over as the starter late last season after Jimmy Garoppolo was injured and won his first seven starts before injuring his elbow in the NFC title game loss at Philadelphia.
Purdy had surgery in March and will resume throwing again next week, and Shanahan has said he’s optimistic Purdy can be healthy enough to start Week 1.
That leaves Lance competing with free agent acquisition Sam Darnold, another former No. 3 overall pick who has struggled to find success early in his career.
“We’ve got two guys who are talented enough to be in the top five of the draft and we’ve got another guy who played like that last year,” Shanahan said of his quarterback.
Shanahan said Lance’s demeanor hasn’t changed now that he’s not slated to start and the team still believes in his potential.
Lance said he’s not concerned about the depth chart and just wants to “live in the moment.”
“My chance is just to come in and compete and that’s all I wanted,” he said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Brock and nobody should be able to take anything away from Brock. He did what he did last year and he deserves all the credit in the world for it. I just want a chance to compete.”
Report from The Associated Press.
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