SANTA CLARA -- Former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said it was "disappointing" that Colin Kaepernick's 2015 benching was preceded by leaks from the organization but is certain Kaepernick will shake off his bad season and flourish in the league.
"There's no question in my mind about that," Harbaugh said on the TK Show podcast, which is hosted by The Mercury News' Tim Kawakami. "He's too great of a talent and he is a competitor at the very highest level, very similar to the two quarterbacks you're going to watch in the Super Bowl in Cam Newton and Peyton Manning."
“There's ups and downs in football,” Harbaugh said. “That's football. Welcome to it.”
The 49ers selected Kaepernick in the second round in 2011, Harbaugh’s first year with the team. Harbaugh is believed to have been the driving force in that selection.
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Kaepernick's future with the 49ers is in limbo. He had a cursory conversation with incoming head coach Chip Kelly last month in Santa Clara but otherwise has been rehabilitating from recent surgeries in Colorado. Kaepernick will make his full base salary of $11.9 million if he remains on the roster after April 1, and there is a sense the team will explore trade options at the scouting combine later this month.
Harbaugh said he continues to talk and text with Kaepernick as he has several of his former players, such as running back Frank Gore. A number of ex-49ers will play in Sunday's game, including the Broncos' Vernon Davis and the Panthers' Ted Ginn and Colin Jones.
Harbaugh will see them in person. He, his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Grace, plan on going to the game, presumably his first time back at Levi’s Stadium since the 2014 season finale.
"You definitely have memories and they don't go away," he said. "Those are good times, signature years."