Brock Purdy enters concussion protocol, as potential Sam Darnold start looms

© Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Darnold may finally enter the picture for the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan revealed Wednesday that Brock Purdy entered concussion protocol following a two-interception performance in a 22-17 loss on the road to the Minnesota Vikings.

The 23-year-old, second-year starter first showed symptoms on the return flight, Shanahan said. Most of the team was sleeping, and he was not made aware that Purdy had concussion-like symptoms until they woke up.

It is possible for Purdy to return this week, but it is unlikely, especially with the week being shortened by the Monday night game. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that no player has returned from the protocol in the same week as they entered it this season.

That is not accurate.

49ers interior offensive lineman Jon Feliciano entered the protocol after the team’s 35-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals and then played 32 snaps, his most of the season — and only offensive involvement of the year — against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

Granted, that was a Sunday to Sunday night turnaround, not a Monday night to Sunday afternoon turnaround, which — according to KNBR’s own rigorous mathematical analysis — should give Purdy roughly 32 fewer hours than Feliciano to recover. That’s just start to start and doesn’t include game time. Feliciano was ruled out at 3:08 p.m. after a 1:25 p.m. start and was cleared by the start of Friday’s practice.

Shanahan said he did not know when Purdy’s head injury occurred.

The best guess as to the possible moment Purdy suffered a head injury comes from the following clip, which has made the rounds online. It’s on a failed quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter with 7:03 remaining, when Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks hitting him over the top of the pile.

He followed that play with a successful sneak. His was intercepted on the ensuing play on a wayward throw towards Jauan Jennings that Shanahan criticized after the game.

With the abbreviated timeline, it would seem likelier than not that Sam Darnold will start this weekend. That, of course, is subject to change, and the concussion protocol is not a predictable process.

Shanahan confirmed Purdy was allowed out on the field for part of walkthroughs on Wednesday, so he will have knowledge of the game plan.

When asked whether Purdy could start if he didn’t practice, Shanahan pointed towards his Thursday night win over the Seattle Seahawks last season, when Purdy played through a broken rib and was limited all the way through warmups.

If he’s cleared, he’ll start, but it’s a tricky timeline with a head injury.

As far as Darnold goes, Shanahan expressed the confidence you’d expect from a head coach asked about their backup who was impressive enough to prompt trading Trey Lance.

“I have as much confidence as Sam as I could have with someone that I haven’t gone into a real NFL game with,” Shanahan said. “He was great in the offseason. He’s been great here in these seven weeks so far, and he’s always ready to go. He’s great in the meetings and stuff. He doesn’t get many reps as no backups do but he does well on the scout team, he’s always good in the meetings.”

Darnold will take the reps that Purdy isn’t allowed on the field for, and will most likely get a full practice on Thursday.

While Purdy might miss this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, the 49ers have their bye immediately after. It would seem likelier than not that this would not be more than a one-game absence.


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