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José Luis Villegas / The Sacramento Bee

Colin Kaepernick runs for some of his record 181 yards against Green Bay in the division playoffs last January. The 49ers will host the Packers again Sunday in a season opener.

49ers notes: Harbaugh calls NFL view on read-option QBs "flawed and biased"

Published: Saturday, Sep. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 7C
Last Modified: Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013 - 4:59 pm

SANTA CLARA – Coach Jim Harbaugh continued to question – in animated fashion this time – the NFL's position on read-option quarterbacks Friday, calling it "flawed and biased."

Harbaugh first expressed his concern Wednesday, saying he had approached the league for clarification.

The league's competition committee responded, but Harbaugh said: "They said they don't have an appetite to look at it any further. So that's where we're at."

The topic is a hot one this week because the Packers' defensive players have been open about their intent to hit 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick when he's in the read-option formation, perhaps even when he doesn't have the ball. Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards – an NFL record for a quarterback – when the teams met in January.

Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, for example, said this week that the strategy was to hit read-option quarterbacks so often that their coaches stop calling read-option plays.

In a video distributed to the media, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said read-option quarterbacks can be viewed by the defense as ballcarriers, even when they no longer have the ball.

"He is still treated as a runner until he is clearly out of the play," Blandino said. "The quarterback makes the pitch, he's still a runner – he can be hit like a runner until he's clearly out of the play."

Said Harbaugh: "I feel like you give a license now for players to hit quarterbacks at the knees or in the head. It just seems to be a flip-flop of what the league's trying to accomplish – you know, player safety."

Return-game shuffle – LaMichael James, the 49ers' primary punt returner in the preseason, missed practice this week with a sprained knee and is listed as questionable on the injury report. Kyle Williams is expected to take over as the team's punt returner against the Packers on Sunday.

Harbaugh wouldn't say who would handle kickoff returns. Rookie Quinton Patton and cornerback Perrish Cox returned kicks in the preseason. Patton had three returns for 71 yards and Cox two for 63 yards.

Captain runners-up – Harbaugh said running back Frank Gore placed second to Kaepernick in the voting for offensive team captain. NaVorro Bowman, the coach said, finished second to Patrick Willis on the defensive side.

"There are so many good candidates, and it was reflected in the vote," Harbaugh said.

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320.

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MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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