SANTA CLARA -- There might have been plenty of non-football reasons for Colin Kaepernick and his representatives to request permission to seek a trade in the offseason.
But there also appears to be one football reason why it is not the worst thing for Kaepernick to remain with the organization that drafted him in 2011. He expressed excitement about working in the 49ers’ new offensive system with coach Chip Kelly, offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day.
“Chip, Curtis, Ryan -- they’ve all been phenomenal,” Kaepernick said on Thursday, making his first public comments since Jan. 4. “(They are) very focused on details and making sure that everybody is prepped for what we’re doing. We know what we’re doing when we step on the field, so we can go out and play with a clear mind. Chip brings a lot of excitement with this offense and what he’s been able to do in the NFL. I think everybody on the team is excited to play for him.
“I think Chip’s system is great for me. I think it’s very similar to what I’ve done in college -- more detailed and more complex. But I think it’s something that I’ll be able to thrive in and I’m excited to be a part of and really get on the field and get those reps and see what we can do in games.”
But, first, Kaepernick has to win the job.
Blaine Gabbert is also viewed as a good fit for Kelly’s system due to his athleticism, quick release and accuracy in the short-passing game. Kaepernick will spend much of the next seven weeks increasing the weight and strength he lost while rehabbing from surgeries to his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee.
The 49ers’ official offseason program concluded on Thursday. The full squad reports back to Santa Clara on Saturday, July 30, for the opening of training camp. The first practice is scheduled for the next day, with the first padded practice allowed on Tuesday, Aug. 2.
Kaepernick was benched after eight games last season, ending his streak of 53 regular-season and playoff games in which he started. Gabbert started the final eight games of the season.
When asked what he must do to reclaim his starting job, Kaepernick answered, “Compete.”
He said, “That’s all I know how to do. Every year that I’ve stepped on the field it’s a competition. Whether people like to say you’re the No. 1 or not, it’s always a competition. There’s always someone trying to be that starter, trying to make that step, and this year is no different. To me, I’m going to go out and compete and make sure I’m doing everything I can to go out and start.”
Kaepernick thrived in a similar system at the University of Nevada under coach Chris Ault. He threw 82 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his four seasons, while rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of his final three seasons.
In his only two full seasons as the 49ers’ starter, Kaepernick rushed for 524 yards in 2013 and 639 yards in ’14. Last season, Kaepernick was third on the 49ers with 256 yards rushing, while Gabbert was fourth with 185 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown run against the Chicago Bears.
“I think it will be more (running), but it really depends on what the offense is doing, what the game plan is and what the calls that are coming are,” Kaepernick said. “All of 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, 28, said he returned to the 49ers as a different person after a tumultuous offseason in which he met with Denver Broncos general manager John Elway but was unable to work out a contract agreement that would have facilitated a trade to the reigning Super Bowl champions.
“(I’m) definitely not the same person,” Kaepernick said. “What I try to do is grow. And that’s not just on the football field, that’s in life. That’s in my relationships. That’s in everything. Being able to grow and have that growth is something that I strive to do, and I think that’s something that I took a big step in in this past year.”
Kaepernick has never been known to be outwardly communicative with many of his teammates. When asked about his standing in the locker room, Kaepernick said he does not sense there are significant obstacles to be overcome.
“From my standpoint, I have a great relationship with my teammates,” he said. “I really can’t answer that question for them, how they view me. That’s a question better suited for them. But for me, I have a great relationship with them and we’re all working hard trying to make sure we’re prepared to win this season.”