After an oddball offseason in which Colin Kaepernick received permission to pursue a trade and met twice with the Denver Broncos, Blaine Gabbert was asked what the 49ers’ quarterback room has been like.
“It’s been normal,” Gabbert said after Tuesday’s practice. “His focus right now is rehab and my focus right now is learning the offense, being in the weight room, being with the guys on the football field. But, no, it’s been great. We’re in the meetings together, we’re in the locker room together, we’re out there working out and getting better together.”
When a deal with the Broncos hit an impasse two months ago, Kaepernick seemed to resign himself to being with the 49ers and competing for the starting role. So far, however, that job has been Gabbert’s.
Kaepernick has been on the practice field mimicking the other quarterbacks’ movements and taking “mental” repetitions. But he has not been cleared for practice after shoulder and knee surgeries and is just starting to regain the strength he lost the past few months.
That’s given Gabbert a jump on running the offense and being looked upon as the starter. Several offensive players have said in recent weeks that Gabbert, who started the final eight games last season, has the demeanor of a leader.
Gabbert and Kaepernick were close last season and have remained friendly this offseason, but Gabbert said he didn’t feel the need to be more reserved given the situation.
“I don’t think I have to tread lightly at all,” he said. “For me, being a quarterback, you have to be the leader. You have to be a vocal guy on the football team directing this offense. … I like being the guy that guys look to, whether to get them lined up or whether they’re looking for advice. Just providing the offense a little juice on the field.”
Coach Chip Kelly dismissed the notion Gabbert has a head start and said there was no timetable for making a decision. Gabbert took the first-team repetitions Tuesday followed by Thaddeus Lewis and sixth-round draft pick Jeff Driskel.
“It has to express itself and let it happen organically,” Kelly said of picking a starting quarterback. “That’s the only way it can happen. And I’ve been involved at every level in quarterback battles, just like there’s battles for every other position. But it’s going to be won on the field. It’s not going to be won because we have a timetable of it has to be set by May 17th or May 18th.”
Kaepernick has resumed lifting weights, is throwing lightly and is on track to be cleared in the coming weeks. The 49ers have a mandatory minicamp June 7-9 followed by a nearly 1 1/2 -month break before training camp.
“He’s great in the classroom,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “He’s got a great grasp of what we’re doing. I’m really impressed by both Blaine and him and their intelligence and being able to pick up what we’re trying to do.
“So there’s no ‘fall behind’ because there’s no behind. There’s not a race. The first day we’re able to go against defenses is today. We’re not naming the starting lineup for the (season-opening) Rams game today.”