SANTA CLARA — Brock Purdy went through his normal routine as Thursday’s practice began, signaling that the 49ers’ quarterback is back on track to start Sunday against the Bengals, unless post-concussion symptoms resurface.
Purdy still must get cleared from the NFL concussion protocol by an independent neurologist, otherwise, Sam Darnold would start in his place.
“You just wait see, and always have plans for both (quarterbacks),” coach Kyle Shanahan on KNBR 680-AM. “We’ll find out sooner than later.”
The 49ers, who’ve lost two in a row after a 5-0 start, kept Purdy out of Wednesday’s official practice, but he was healthy enough to partake in an earlier walk-through session. Purdy reported effects from a potential concussion while on the flight home from Monday night’s 22-17 loss at Minnesota.
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Purdy, because he remains in the concussion protocol, was prevented from holding his weekly press conference, though he did informally talk to reporters in the locker room after practice and seemed in good spirits.
NFL leading rusher Christian McCaffrey is unfazed by the 49ers’ quarterback questions, saying: “Obviously, for me, it’s about getting to the right spot, and, getting open for, you know, the quarterback, and hitting the holes when I get the handoffs.”
Thursday’s practice opened with Purdy still taking the first snaps and doing so without any tinted visor on his helmet, in case he had any sensitivity to light. Darnold and No. 3 quarterback Brandon Allen followed in their usual spots with the regular reps, although media access ended before full-team drills commenced.
Purdy is officially 10-2 all-time in regular-season starts, having lost the past two at Cleveland (19-17) and at Minnesota (22-17) while throwing his first three interceptions of the season. He’s taken every meaningful snap as the 49ers’ quarterback since Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt in the first quarter of a Dec. 4 home win against the Miami Dolphins.
Although Purdy has started 15 consecutive games — playoffs included — his status wasn’t in this much doubt until his No. 2 start, which he made Dec. 15 at Seattle despite a broken rib he sustained in his victorious starting debut four days earlier against Tampa Bay.
Purdy’s apparent concussion Monday night was the result of a helmet-to-helmet hit by Vikings’ linebacker Jordan Hicks that stopped Purdy for no gain on a third-and-1 sneak. Purdy converted on a fourth-down dive the next snap, then promptly threw an interception with 5 1/2 minutes to go; another interception followed on the 49ers’ next and final possession, with 25 seconds remaining to seal the 49ers’ seventh losing visit to Minnesota.
The 49ers have had only one player go through the NFL concussion protocol this season: Jon Feliciano, a backup offensive lineman who left their Week 4 game against Arizona but was cleared to participate in the next game against Dallas. Two seasons ago, defensive end Nick Bosa left a wild-card win at Dallas with a concussion but played six days later in their divisional win at Green Bay.
If Purdy does yield to Darnold either this week or down the road, it is a move the 49ers banked on when they signed the sixth-year veteran in free agency. Darnold beat out Trey Lance for the No. 2 role as the preseason came to a close, resulting in Lance getting traded to Dallas for a fourth-round draft pick.
Darnold is 21-34 all-time as a starter in his time with the New York Jets (2018-20) and the Carolina Panthers (’21-22); Darnold won 4-of-6 to close the Panthers’ 2022 season, though he completed just 5-of-15 passes for 43 yards with two interceptions and a 2.8 passer rating in a 10-7 win at New Orleans.
Steve Wilks, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, finished last season as the Panthers’ interim coach, and he said of Darnold: “Lot of poise. He’s going to lead the offense the right way. He showed that last year coming in, under the circumstances. … Hopefully Brock’s ready.”
Allen previously played with the Bengals and has worked at least some scout-team reps this week.
WILKS’ MEA CULPA
Wilks, in opening his weekly press conference, accepted blame for a blitz call that backfired on a 60-yard touchdown reception just before halftime Monday. “I take full responsibility for that call. I have to do better job putting guys in better position,” Wilks said. “We have really good players. I know that. Can’t press the issue. … I wish I could take it back, but again, I’ve got to do better.”
Left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) remained out, other than to do individual conditioning with a trainer, as was the case with wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who ran on the side and will miss his second straight game with a hairline fracture to his left shoulder. Linebacker Dre Greenlaw returned after getting Wednesday off to rest.
Some 125 former players are expected to attend this weekend’s alumni festivities, which will pay special homage to their 1981 and ’88 teams that won the franchise’s first two Super Bowls, both against the Bengals, this Sunday’s opponent.