Colin Kaepernick threw a pass in his first game since Nov. 1 and looked like someone who had gone nearly 10 months without any game action.
Kaepernick, who entered on the 49ers’ third series in Friday night’s 21-10 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers, went 2 of 6 for 14 yards with the first-string offense before giving way to rookie Jeff Driskel in the third quarter.
Blaine Gabbert started his third consecutive contest, leading the team on a five-play, 50-yard touchdown drive on his second series. The drive was capped by a three-yard toss from Gabbert to receiver Quinton Patton that officially was ruled a run by Patton because the throw was behind the line of scrimmage.
Gabbert was 2 for 3 for 14 yards and ran twice for 15 yards. Through three games, he is 12 for 22 for 146 yards, a touchdown and a 90.3 passer rating. He hasn’t been sacked and hasn’t thrown an interception and seems like Chip Kelly’s likely choice to start the Sept. 12 opener against the Rams.
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Asked if the 49ers still have quarterback competition, Kelly was careful with his answer. “We’ll sit down as a staff and kind of see where we are.” he said.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, said he felt he still had a shot to open the season as the starter. “Yeah, I think so,” he said after the game. “I mean, that’s really up to Chip and the coaching staff. But in my mind I think I can go out and win it.”
Kelly said that the starting role Friday was “just a ceromonious thing” and that he was concerned with giving Gabbert and Kaepernick an equal number of snaps behind the first-team offensive line. Gabbert was going to get three series, but when Green Bay went on a 14-play drive to end the first quarter, he decided to put Kaepernick in.
Kaepernick’s first pass was a sideline throw to tight end Vance McDonald that gained two yards. Two plays later, he converted a third-and-7 scenario with a 12-yard bullet to receiver DeAndrew White.
His next pass was deflected, and his third-down throw downfield to McDonald was nearly intercepted by Packers cornerback Sam Shields. Kaepernick also took off out of the pocket on four passing plays, gaining 18 yards total but failing to pick up a first down on any of his runs. All three of his drives ended with punts.
After the game, Kaepernick was asked if he was rusty after so many months without playing in a game.
“I don’t think there was rust,” he said. “It just felt good being back on the field. I was excited to be out there. Wish we would’ve done a little bit more, but it was good to get out there, get my feet wet.”
Kaepernick had not played in a game since Nov. 8 when he relieved then-starter Gabbert for two snaps – both running plays – in a win over the Falcons. Later that month, the 49ers placed Kaepernick on injured reserve with a torn left labrum, which he had surgically repaired in Vail, Colo.
Kaepernick spent most of the spring recovering from that and two other procedures. He and Gabbert initially split the first-team quarterback snaps when training camp began in late July. But without the benefit of a full spring’s worth of throwing, Kaepernick’s right shoulder became fatigued, and he missed the first two games of the preseason.
Kelly called Kaepernick’s performance on Friday “up and down. I think like all of us offensively,” he said.
Kaepernick’s left shoulder was injured last season during a 17-3 loss to the Packers, a game in which he was sacked six times. One of those sacks was delivered by Clay Matthews, which the linebacker punctuated by kissing his biceps – Kaepernick’s signature celebration.
Kaepernick, whose extended family lives within a half-hour’s drive of Green Bay, largely had risen to NFL prominence because of two playoff wins against the Packers. In the first, he ran for 181 yards, an NFL record for a quarterback. A year later on a frozen Lambeau Field, he ran for 98 yards in a 23-20 win.