The 49ers last year reined in Colin Kaepernick’s running plays to save their starting quarterback from excessive wear and tear, and because he suffered a significant injury to his foot.
Kaepernick, who during the 2013 season joked the issue was a hangnail on his little toe, revealed the actual diagnosis in an interview with The Bee this week. He said he suffered a chipped bone on his forefoot and a ruptured capsule in the ball of his foot when a Seahawks defender landed on it during a Week 2 loss in Seattle.
“Running down the sideline and went down,” Kaepernick said. “And I think it was one of their linemen or linebackers landed on my foot when I was on the ground.”
The injury prevented him from pushing off with the foot in his customary way, and it diminished his acceleration. Kaepernick rushed nine times for 87 yards against the Seahawks. He didn’t have more than 20 rushing yards until a Week 7 win against Tennessee. In the four-game span in-between, his completion percentage was 53 percent; it was 60 percent for the other 12 in the regular season.
It should be noted that Kaepernick’s completion percentage likely was affected by the fact one of his few trusted targets, Vernon Davis, was dealing with a hamstring injury suffered in the Seahawks game and missed the Week 3 game vs. Indianapolis. Another 49er, nose tackle Ian Williams, was lost for the season after a low block by a Seahawks offensive lineman resulted in a broken ankle. Safety Eric Reid left that game because of a concussion.
Kaepernick was on the injury report with a foot issue from the start of Week 3 through mid-November.
“I noticed it, especially in practice,” coach Jim Harbaugh said in March. “I think anytime you have a foot, a hand or a finger, it affects you throwing and running.”
As a result, the 49ers did not call as many read-option plays for Kaepernick.
“We didn’t want to see Colin get hit 12 times a game,” Harbaugh said. “Four or five? Maybe, and that’s it. That was a conscious effort.”
Kaepernick discussed the injury after being asked about the discrepancy between his rushing numbers in the postseason, when he averaged 9.3 yards a carry, and regular season, when he averaged 5.7 yards. Extrapolated over 16 games, his postseason rushing numbers would break Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback of 1,039 yards by more than 250 yards.
“It was something that was always there,” he said of the injury. “Never spoke about it, never said anything about it because you’re a football player; you play through pain. Unless you’re being carted off, you should be on the field. If it’s something you can play through, that’s what you do.”
Defensive lineman Justin Smith revealed last month he played through the 2013 season with a shoulder injury suffered in training camp. The injury required surgery in the offseason, but Smith and the 49ers never let on it was a problem last year.
Said Kaepernick: “I think that’s the kind of players we have on this team: You’re not going to let something that’s minor, that’s not a true injury, keep you off of the field. You’re going to hurt, yes. You’re going to have tweaks and problems. But you’re a football player; you can play through those.”