Colin Kaepernick has played his last snap for the 49ers this season and perhaps for the rest of his career.
The team placed the one-time Super Bowl starting quarterback on injured reserve Saturday with an injury to his left, non-throwing shoulder that could require surgery early next week. Under NFL rules, players put on injured reserve cannot return to active status for the remainder of the season.
Dylan Thompson, an undrafted rookie who had been on the 49ers’ practice squad, was elevated to the 53-man roster and will be Blaine Gabbert’s backup Sunday against the Seahawks. Gabbert replaced Kaepernick as the starter earlier this month and led the 49ers to a 17-16 victory over Atlanta in their last game.
On Friday, Kaepernick told The Bee the injury occurred against the Packers in Week 4. The quarterback, however, only appeared on the team’s injury report with a shoulder issue this week.
According to a league source, Kaepernick had an MRI on the shoulder on Monday. Those images were sent to a specialist in Colorado, Dr. Peter Millett of the Steadman Clinic, who said Kaepernick had a “significant” tear in his labrum. The source said Kaepernick offered to be in Seattle for Sunday’s game before traveling to Colorado on Monday, but the team decided to place him on injured reserve. He could have surgery as early as Tuesday.
A 49ers spokesman said Kaepernick’s shoulder was examined by a team doctor after the Green Bay game and that the injury was not believed to be significant but that it should be monitored.
The course of action for a labrum tear is to allow it to heal on its own or have it surgically repaired. When the injury continued tobother him following the team’s recent bye week, doctors re-examined the shoulder, including with a Monday MRI. On Wednesday Kaepernick’s name was listed on the weekly practice participation report with a shoulder injury for the first time this season.
Kaepernick was a full participant in Wednesday through Friday’s practices and was listed as probable for Sunday’s game.
By going on injured reserve, Kaepernick will not receive $875,000 in roster bonuses for the remainder of the season. Kaepernick’s $11.9 million salary for 2016 becomes guaranteed if he is still on the 49ers’ roster on April 1, and the team is expected to part ways with him – either in a trade or by releasing him – before that point, which would come three years after he and the 49ers were in the Super Bowl.
His full 2016 salary also becomes fully guaranteed if he is still injured on April 1. The labrum issue, however, is not expected to trigger the injury guarantee in the contract.
Kaepernick said Friday the injury resulted from a hit he took in the team’s 17-3 loss to the Packers in Week 4. He was sacked six times in the game and also absorbed a big blow from Packers linebacker Clay Matthews after handing the ball off on a read-option play.
“To me, not only did I not have the ball, but it was also targeting the head,” Kaepernick said after the game. “But to me, we’re on to the next play. I can’t sit there and complain about it.”
There was no penalty, and Matthews was not fined.
Kaepernick had never missed a start because of injury since taking over as the starter midway through 2012. He started the 49ers’ first eight games this season before being replaced by Gabbert, who will start his first road game for the 49ers on Sunday. Coach Jim Tomsula had been noncommittal on who would quarterback the team for the rest of the season.
The only other time Kaepernick was on an injury report this season was following a Week 7 loss to Seattle when he suffered a thumb injury.
This season, Kaepernick completed 144 of 244 passes (59.0 percent) for 1,615 yards and six touchdowns. His passer rating was 78.5, the lowest of his career.
In five seasons with the 49ers, Kaepernick has completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 10,030 yards and 56 touchdowns. He has been intercepted 26 times and has an 88.4 passer rating. He also has rushed for 1,832 yards on 306 carries (6.0 average).