Kaepernick flattered, deflects 'best ever' prediction

ESPN analyst heaps praise on quarterback

mbarrows@sacbee.comAugust 22, 2013 

49ers Chiefs Football

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) hands off to running back Frank Gore (21) during the first half of an preseason NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/ Ed Zurga)

ED ZURGA — AP

SANTA CLARA — Colin Kaepernick received high praise from someone who should know a little something about quarterbacking in the NFL: Ron Jaworski.

The former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback said he thought Kaepernick "could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. I love his skill set. I think the sky's the limit."

Jaworski also picked the 49ers to repeat as NFC champions.

Kaepernick adopted his customary gracious approach in responding to Jaworski's words:

"To me, it's a great honor that he said that. Very flattered by it, but at the same time I haven't played a full season yet."

With that, the former Pitman High star tried to put Jaworski's words in perspective. Kaepernick started 10 games last season, including two NFC playoff games and the Super Bowl. The 49ers were 7-3 in those starts.

Still, no one would blame Kaepernick if his head were swelling just a little. He's graced the covers of everything from GQ to ESPN magazine to just about every NFL preview magazine on the stands.

Was all that celebrity the reason he has been wearing a black jersey in camp the last couple of days? Or did it denote an injury, as is usual in the NFL?

No, neither one.

Coach Jim Harbaugh explainedthat Kaepernick's black jersey is meant to reinforce the rule that quarterbacks aren't to be hit — a rule outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks nearly broke in a recent practice.

"Felt like as the defense was running a stunt, and Ahmad came free and was a little too close to Colin," Harbaugh said. "So (the jersey is) a way to re-emphasize to stay away from Colin Kaepernick, so we don't get anything freakish happen in practice."

Harbaugh also used the word "freakish" Friday to explain why Kaepernick played only four snaps against Kansas City. "In the second week of preseason we didn't want anything freakish to happen to him," he said.

Kaepernick said he didn't know if the odd-colored jersey — it has a red No. 7 — made the defense more cautious, but he made it clear he doesn't want special treatment.

"I'm not a fan of the jersey," Kaepernick said.

• IN DEFENSE OF JENKINS — At the end of Harbaugh's news conference Wednesday, a reporter asked a simple question: Could new receiver Jon Baldwin win a starting job before the season begins Sept. 8?

Harbaugh started with, "Anything's possible," but a few sentences later he had launched into a spirited defense of A.J. Jenkins — or rather a defense or his original defense of Jenkins — whom the 49ers traded to Kansas City for Baldwin on Monday.

"I know a lot of people have been making some sport of A.J. and Jonathan and my comments and that type of thing," Harbaugh said. "And I really feel the same as I did a year ago when I made those comments — that I don't think it's fair to bully or label a young player. I fully understand that people are entitled to their opinion and their perspective.

"However, I prefer that the criticism," Harbaugh went on, his voice rising, "I would appreciate if the criticism is directed toward me. ... Actually, I welcome it."

On July 29 last year, Harbaugh reprimanded the "scribes, pundits and so-called experts" who had been criticizing Jenkins, the team's first-round pick. He said then that anyone who called Jenkins a bust "should just stop. I recommend that because they're making themselves look more clueless than they already did. I'll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player."

Harbaugh said he planned to play Baldwin in Sunday's preseason game against Minnesota.

• HUNTER WILL PLAY — Harbaugh said running back Kendall Hunter would get some snaps against Minnesota and rookie tight end Vance McDonald, who missed the Kansas City game, also would be back in action. Hunter, recovering from an Achilles' tear in November, returned to limited practice Aug. 10 but wasn't cleared until this week. Hunter said he's at full strength and isn't thinking about his injury.

"As soon as you touch the ball, everything else goes away," he said.

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