Colin Kaepernick went through a full week of practice, but 49ers coach Chip Kelly, as is his custom, wouldn’t say which of his quarterbacks would start Friday’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.
“I know you guys don’t like the answer,” Kelly said Wednesday. “But we’re going to do it the same way every time – when we get to Friday, we’ll make sure we know exactly from Ferg (head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson) who’s up, who’s down and then parcel out the plans. If (Kaepernick’s) up, then he’s going to play.”
Kaepernick was in street clothes on the sideline for the first two preseason games and was unable to throw in five consecutive practices because of soreness in his right throwing shoulder. That presumably allowed Blaine Gabbert to take a lead in their competition for the starting job.
Kaepernick, however, said he feels he still can win the race.
“Most definitely,” he said Wednesday. “I’m going to go out and show everything I can these next two games and make sure I put my best foot forward to show this organization, this team, this coaching staff what I’m capable of.”
Of all the preseason games, the third typically is treated as the most important warmup for the regular season and is the game in which starters play the most. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for example, is expected to get his first – and perhaps only – preseason snaps Friday at Levi’s Stadium.
Kaepernick, whose family is from Wisconsin, grew up a Packers fan and became one of the NFL’s most popular players largely because of two dramatic wins against Green Bay in the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. Last season, however, the Packers’ defense took a measure of revenge. It sacked Kaepernick six times in a 17-3 Green Bay win and left the quarterback with a left shoulder tear that eventually was surgically repaired.
He rehabilitated from that injury and two other procedures throughout the spring, then began throwing as usual when training camp began July 31. The sudden workload brought on what the team called a “fatigued” throwing shoulder, which Kaepernick said was similar to what he went through as a high school pitcher.
“Very frustrating,” Kaepernick said of the hiatus. “Not something I was expecting. But at the same time, it was something I had to deal with and make sure I was ready for this coming game.”
He said his arm rebounded faster than it did when he was high school pitcher in Turlock. “Baseball’s very taxing on a shoulder,” he said. “Football, not as much.”
Kaepernick cited his comfort level in Kelly’s offense – “very similar to what I did in college,” he said – as a reason he can flourish despite his recent setback.
“At this point, I don’t think there’s any reason for me to be cautious or feel uncomfortable in the offense,” he said. “I’m very excited about what we’re capable of doing and the opportunities we do have.”
With Kaepernick watching from the sideline, Gabbert went 10 for 19 for 132 yards, a touchdown and a 92.4 passer rating in the first two preseason games. He hasn’t been sacked or thrown an interception.
The quarterbacks said they hadn’t been told the pecking order for Friday’s game. Both, however, expect to play.
“I feel really comfortable,” Gabbert said when asked of his mindset for the game. “It’s the home stadium. We want to play good and keep building on the first two preseason games and put a good show out there for the fans on Friday.”