After Colin Kaepernick suffered three significant injuries in 2015, you might think he will curtail his hard-running habits in 2016.
“My style of play is my style of play,” the 49ers quarterback said Thursday. “I have to be able to continue with that and be able to do those things and do what this offense requires of me.”
Still, Kaepernick is making some alterations for the upcoming season.
One has to do with flexibility. While rehabilitating in Vail, Colo., this offseason, he worked on stretching and loosening his back, which tended to tighten up in the past.
Some observers wondered whether Kaepernick, perhaps more dedicated to the weight room than any other NFL quarterback, was too muscular in recent seasons. Kaepernick conceded that he needs to work on being more limber, but a league source on Friday said it has as much, or even more, to do with becoming a more elusive runner than his passing.
The source would not be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Kaepernick said he lost “a pretty substantial amount of weight” due to shoulder, knee and thumb injuries and subsequent surgeries and that he intended to regain that mass.
“Too tight, I do think that’s possible,” he said. “Too much muscle for what I do and how I play, I don’t think so. I’ve been heavier in the past and played just as well and better. I don’t think that’s really the issue – it’s making sure I do everything on the recovery end and making sure I stay limber as well.”
Kaepernick is working on his vision as well.
During practice this week, he wore a tinted visor for the first time. It wasn’t a fashion statement.
He is wearing contact lenses to improve his short vision, and he uses the visor to ensure the contacts stay in place and to minimize the amount of sunlight that hits his eyes.
“For me, it was something I need to protect my eyes,” he said. “Been doing a lot of things to make sure my vision’s correct. So the visor’s been there to help with that.”
For Kaepernick to wear a tinted visor in an NFL game, he must prove it’s medically necessary and receive approval from the league office. Clear visors are permitted.
The main theme of Kaepernick’s media session on Thursday, his first since Jan. 4, was that he is eager – very eager – to run first-year 49ers coach Chip Kelly’s offense, which the quarterback said was similar to the one in which he set college rushing records at Nevada.
In fact, he said he thought there would be more opportunities to carry the ball in Kelly’s offense than with the previous offenses he’s run with the 49ers.
“I think it will be more, but it really depends on what the offense is doing, what the game plan is, what the calls that are coming in are,” he said. “All those things are dictated by what the coaches feel as far as game plan and what the defense is going to be giving us.”
Kaepernick’s shoulder and thumb injuries last year came on sacks, not quarterback running plays. It’s not known exactly how he hurt his knee, although the injury occurred during a Nov. 1 loss in St. Louis.
Kelly, meanwhile, has a vastly more athletic stable of quarterbacks than he had with the Eagles, including his top quarterback at the moment, Blaine Gabbert.
Several times this offseason, Kelly said he’s been pleasantly surprised by Gabbert’s running ability. Gabbert has taken all of the first-string snaps this spring and will be in that role when training camp begins in late July.
It will be up to Kaepernick to catch him.
“Compete. That’s all I know how to do,” he said. “Every year that I’ve stepped on the field, it’s a competition, whether people like to say you’re the No. 1 (quarterback) or not. It’s a competition. There’s always someone trying to be that starter, trying to make that step. And this year’s no different. To me, I’m going to go out, compete and do everything I can to go out and start.”