Colin Kaepernick biding time to grasp 'next opportunity' as starter

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 7, 2016

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been a backup before and now that he's No. 2 on the depth chart again, he's biding his time for the next chance to play.

"I have to wait my time and work," Kaepernick said Wednesday. "I've been in this position before. Last time I was in this position, I ended up in the Super Bowl, so I continue to work and prepare for when that next opportunity comes."

Kaepernick entered the 2012 season as the backup to Alex Smith but took the starting job after Smith suffered a concussion midway through the season. The 49ers went on to come up just short in Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens.

Much has changed for Kaepernick and the Niners in the time since. Kaepernick began last season as the starter but ended up on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury. Blaine Gabbert replaced Kaepernick for the final half of the season.

After coach Chip Kelly took over, he declared an open competition for the starting job between Gabbert and Kaepernick. With Kaepernick working his way back from shoulder, thumb and knee injuries, Gabbert took most of the reps in the spring and it happened again during training camp when Kaepernick suffered from right shoulder tightness.

Kaepernick appeared in the final two preseason games but Kelly named Gabbert the starter on Saturday, citing Kaepernick's need to get more work in his offense and to get back to his normal playing weight.

"That's ultimately Chip's decision," Kaepernick said. "All I can do is focus on myself at this point and make sure I'm getting better.

"I think I will continue to improve and continue to get into my stride. It's really only been about a month since I've been on the field, so there's still some progressing to do, still some strength to get back, but I'll continue to work."

Kaepernick also plans to continue to work to raise awareness of racial oppression and other social issues that prompted his protests during the national anthem. Kaepernick sat during the anthem the first three preseason games and took a knee with safety Eric Reid before the exhibition finale.

After that game in San Diego, Kaepernick pledged to donate the first $1 million he makes this season toward helping organizations he believes can make a difference. He said Wednesday that he'll also donate the proceeds from the sales of his jersey to those same causes.

Kaepernick said he has spent time this past week talking to different activists and leaders around the country.

"I've had a lot of conversations with [them] about how to address your issues practically and what reasonable solutions that we feel can be implemented, whether it's legislation or in the community, and make sure these changes are happening," Kaepernick said.

Kaepernick also acknowledged the support President Barack Obama offered to him on Sunday.

"He's someone that also realizes there are many issues that need to be addressed and need changing in this country," Kaepernick said. "The initial shock of what the protest was about and the significance of that was lost in the action and the message wasn't really addressed. I think that was great that he came out and supported the message that we do need to make changes in these areas."

In a media session that lasted about eight minutes, Kaepernick also addressed internet gossip that he had converted to Islam and discussed how his relationship with girlfriend Nessa Diab has led to a lot of conversations about important topics.

"I have seen that and I haven't [converted]," Kaepernick said. "I have great respect for the religion, I know a lot of people that are Muslim and are phenomenal people, but I think that comes along with people's fear of this protest as well as Islamophobia in this country. People are terrified of them to the point where [Donald] Trump wants to ban all Muslims from coming here, which is ridiculous.

"This is an open discussion that I have with many people and not just my woman. She is Muslim, her family is Muslim. I have great respect for them, I have great respect for people's right to believe what they want to believe. I don't think anybody should be prosecuted or judged based on what their beliefs are."