The competition for the 49ers’ starting quarterback job will not truly begin until the team reports to training camp in late-July.
And 49ers coach Chip Kelly said he is taking a wait-and-see approach to the battle that’s expected to match Blaine Gabbert against Colin Kaepernick for the starting job.
“I have no idea,” Kelly said Friday morning on KNBR 680-AM's "Murph and Mac" show. “We’re not playing a game until September. At this point in time, it’s early. And one of the players, Colin, is injured right now, so he’s not been a full participant in everything.”
Kaepernick has not been cleared for full participation in practices during the offseason program after undergoing surgeries on his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee. He could be ready to participate in the team's mandatory minicamp set for early June.
“Kap’s at every meeting. Kap’s at rehab. Kap’s at every practice, doing what he can,” Kelly said. “We don’t know exactly what we have until we get those guys up and running. That won’t be determined until preseason camp.”
As he has stated repeatedly this offseason, Kelly said the request Kaepernick’s agents made for a trade in February is part of the business side of the sport. Kaepernick remained with the 49ers this offseason after his representation and the Denver Broncos could not work out details on a new contract that would have facilitated a trade.
“On a football level and on a day-to-day basis and how we get along, it’s been fantastic,” Kelly said. “We set that kind of parameter to begin with: when you’re here, we’re going to coach the heck out of you. He understands that and he’s been great with that.
“We haven’t had any ‘elephants in the room’ or anything to speak of from that standpoint. … I’ve had great interaction with Kap, and so has our quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator and everybody in the building.
“The first thing that struck me about Kap is he’s really intelligent. He’s got a great grasp of what he did in college and what he did in the couple different coordinators he had here at San Francisco, and what we’re doing now and installing. He can put the things together really quickly. I was really struck how intelligent and how sharp he is in the classroom.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana this week said Kaepernick’s lack of communication with teammates makes it difficult for him to be a leader.
Said Kelly, “The first thing in being a leader is being authentic. There’ve been many great leaders that were quiet, but their actions, their ability to care about other players, their ability to put themselves in the back and put others in the forefront, are qualities.”
Kelly entered the NFL in 2013 with the Philadelphia Eagles after being associated with such dual-threat quarterbacks as Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas and Marcus Mariota during his four seasons as head coach at Oregon.
Kaepernick, Gabbert and rookie Jeff Driskel provides Kelly with a group of quarterbacks who have good size and exceptional speed.
Kaepernick has rushed for 1,834 yards in while starting 47 career NFL games. Gabbert demonstrated his running ability with a 44-yard touchdown run against the Chicago Bears last season. And Driskel clocked the fastest time among quarterbacks at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“The one thing that jumped out right away was how athletic Blaine is,” Kelly said. “I didn’t see, we did not play against him while I was in Philly, so this is really my first exposure to him. His athleticism is the first thing that jumped out at me.
”If you look at Driskel, Blaine and Kap, they’re all 6-4 plus, and all can run. All of them are at 4.6 (seconds in the 40-yard dash) or under 4.6, which is kind of rare to have three guys that can kind of do the same thing. But it’s beneficial to you.”