SANTA CLARA -- Colin Kaepernick, criticized for being closed off to teammates a year ago, seems happier and looser this season, receiver Torrey Smith said Tuesday.
"I think he was alright. I think he's better," Smith said when asked how engaged Kaepernick is this year as opposed to last. "That's not to say he was terrible, but I think he's definitely more open."
"I'd say he's happier overall, so I think people tend to forget that's a big part of it, just being happy and having fun and being loose," Smith continued. "So I think he's going to take advantage of his opportunities."
Smith also said the national anthem debate, which Kaepernick started in August and which has been controversial across the country, also has opened the communication in the 49ers locker room. Kaepernick and seven teammates have been protesting during the anthem ceremony to draw attention to racial injustice in this country.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
Smith said that's triggered plenty of conversations among teammates
"It probably helped him open up to a lot of our team and teammates better," he said. "There's been a very open communication about that as well as football."
Said Kaepernick when asked about his state of mind: "I think I've always been happy. But more than anything, I'm comfortable, I'm at peace with myself, with my relationships and with everything that's going on with my life. So I think that reflects and I think that's what he's (Smith) referring to."
After Thursday's game, Chip Kelly conceded that Blaine Gabbert, not Kaepernick, has been the better quarterback at practice, which is partly why Gabbert had held the starting job through the first five games.
Smith, however, said Kaepernick looked "sharp" in Tuesday's session. He will get about three quarters of the first-team snaps this week while Gabbert will get the remainder. Christian Ponder continues to run the 49ers’ scout-team offense.
"We made some big plays, he was consistent," Smith said. "That's the biggest thing -- just making it easy for us."
Kaepernick, meanwhile, noted that he hasn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game in nearly a year. He said that while he's not back to his pre-surgery weight, he's nearly as strong as he was a year ago.
"I'm itching to get out there," he said.