San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance appeared in six games and made two starts during his rookie season in 2021, but he could have seen more action or been more effective if he wasn't dealing with a broken finger.
Lance told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated he suffered the broken finger with ligament damage during the preseason, and it impacted the way he gripped the ball:
"I chipped the bone in my pointer finger, so I had to wait on it. It was super swollen, couldn't really bend it or straighten it. It [happened] at the Raiders [preseason] game. We had a bye week after the Raiders game, I had a splint on just to try to get it back straight. So it chipped, it kind of stayed bent like this and we just had to keep working. I wore a little brace that kind of … it pushed down on my knuckle and up on both sides of my finger. I just kept wearing it and stretching it as much as I could, scraping it and just trying to get all the scar tissue out of there."
The injury meant Lance was essentially throwing with four fingers, which impacted the velocity and touch he could put on the ball.
"I didn’t really know how much it was affecting me until we were getting into the season," he said. "Every week kind of got harder. And I was working on it, I knew obviously it was broken. It didn't feel good. But I wanted to play. I wanted at least to have an opportunity to be ready and be the two, whatever my role was [going to be] that year."
The North Dakota State product went 1-1 as a starter and completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 603 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions across his six games. He also added 168 yards and a score as a runner.
While there were times when he hinted at his overall potential, the numbers didn't exactly look like franchise quarterback totals for a player San Francisco selected with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft.
Yet the injury provides more context, and he will look to take significant strides now that he is healthier and the No. 1 quarterback in San Francisco.
The 49ers still haven't traded Jimmy Garoppolo, but every indication this offseason has been that Lance will be the starter and last year's No. 1 will eventually head elsewhere. That makes having Lance healthy all the more important for a team in a win-now window that just reached the NFC Championship Game last season.
Lance played sparingly in the team's preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers and impressed by going 4-of-5 for 92 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.
His first chance in the regular season will come on Sept. 11 when San Francisco opens its campaign in Chicago against the Bears.