San Francisco 49ers

Jim Harbaugh says he’d highly recommend Kaepernick to any team that asks

Top landing spots for the career of 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick

The Denver Broncos were the first team to express interest in a trade with the 49ers for disgruntled quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Now the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets have joined the discussions with San Francisco for a Kaepernick trade. Be
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The Denver Broncos were the first team to express interest in a trade with the 49ers for disgruntled quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Now the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets have joined the discussions with San Francisco for a Kaepernick trade. Be

SANTA CLARA -- Jim Harbaugh said this week that no NFL teams have asked for his opinion on Colin Kaepernick but that he'd be more than happy to provide an evaluation if they did.

"Anybody that talks to me is going to get a great recommendation that's going to knock their socks off," the former 49ers coach said in a phone interview.

Harbaugh, of course, chose Kaepernick in the second-round of the 2011 draft, then tapped him as his starter over Alex Smith during the 2012 season. The two have remained close since Harbaugh left the 49ers for the University of Michigan at the end of the 2014 season.

Kaepernick's career is at a crossroads.

He was the subject of trade talks involving the Browns and Broncos earlier this month, although those discussions currently are at a standstill. General manager Trent Baalke told reporters at the owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. Tuesday that he’s had recent discussions with “several teams” about Kaepernick but that no trade offer has been made.

He and the 49ers have said they are prepared to keep Kaepernick on their roster this season, and new head coach Chip Kelly said last week he's eager to work with him.

"I'm a big Kap fan," Kelly said. "I'd love to have him."

Harbaugh was drawn to Kaepernick in part because of the quarterback's toughness. He had a stress fracture in his left leg at the University of Nevada -- for which he had surgery following the 2011 draft -- and dealt with a chipped bone and ruptured capsule of his foot in 2013 with the 49ers.

Kaepernick played through both injuries.

"He's as tough as nails," Harbaugh said. "That's a badge of honor in a lot of ways."

Kaepernick also was injured in 2015. Since December, he's had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, a tear in his right thumb and to have his left knee cleaned out arthroscopically.

Those injuries are part of Kaepernick's dissatisfaction with the 49ers. They were diagnosed and operated on by outside physicians at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. not by team doctors affiliated with Stanford Hospital. Kaepernick also has been rehabilitating in Vail, although he has returned to Santa Clara for routine physicals as he did on Friday.

The 49ers counter that Kaepernick's stoic nature -- admired by Harbaugh -- meant that he didn't complain about his injuries. That is, they didn't know the degree he was hurting until after he lost his starting job in November.

Another issue: National reports, citing anonymous sources, about Kaepernick's locker-room demeanor that preceded his benching. Harbaugh dealt with similar circumstances in 2014 before he and the team parted ways with one year remaining on his contract.

"I noticed it and saw it and recognized the pattern," Harbaugh said when asked if he was bothered by the anonymous chatter that came amid his former quarterback's benching.

The Michigan head coach said he continues to text and talk with Kaepernick, who hasn't spoken publicly since the end of the 2015 season. He said the quarterback remains upbeat and determined.

"I've never been around him when he wasn't," Harbaugh said. "As we talked about earlier, he's as tough as they come. Mentally tough and confidant as he should be."

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Television viewers with sharp eyes might be able to see Harbaugh on Friday. That's when the Indiana basketball team -- coached by his brother in law, Tom Crean -- will take on North Carolina in Philadelphia in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.

Harbaugh currently is five practices into a 10-practice spring session with Michigan. He said there's a practice scheduled for Thursday and one on Saturday, which gives him a window to cheer on Indiana in person.

"I can't be in two places at once, but if it's humanly possible, I'm going to get over there and watch 'em," he said.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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