SANTA CLARA — Unexpectedly cheerful and far more chatty than the norm, Colin Kaepernick insisted he takes every part of his job seriously and is working at giving more thoughtful public responses even after poor performances.
Scrutinized locally and nationally for his terse, short answers along with bad play in recent weeks — word counts, anyone? — the quarterback took a different approach during his weekly Wednesday media session in the locker room at Levi's Stadium. Kaepernick said he received some guidance about public speaking.
“I think there's a different way to go about things. Obviously, it's something that I take my job very seriously. When I go out there and compete and I don't do well, it's something I'm very hard on myself about. It's something that I have to approach others differently with when I'm in those situations,” Kaepernick said. “Yeah, I think there is a happy medium. It's something that obviously I'm working on and try to help you guys do your jobs as well.”
Kaepernick and the 49ers (7-6) must win out to have a chance of returning to the playoffs for a fourth straight year under coach Jim Harbaugh. They return to Seattle on Sunday just 11 months after losing the NFC title game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks, and just 17 days after a 19-3 defeat by their rival on Thanksgiving night.
After consecutive dismal performances, Kaepernick realizes there is no margin for error for the Niners now.
“I've lost games before. It's not uncharted territory,” he said. “We have a higher standard and everyone else has a higher standard for us. If you lose a few games, it's not a situation you want to be in. We're trying to correct that.”
Kaepernick acknowledged that he and Raiders linebacker Sio Moore got into a heated back and forth in the tunnel of the Oakland Coliseum on Sunday at halftime. Moore later called the quarterback a “chump” on social media.
“I'm not too worried about what someone else is saying. I'm out there to compete and that's really all I'm worried about, trying to help this team win,” Kaepernick said. “I'm not one to back down from a challenge, so exchanged a few words.”
Harbaugh has supported Kaepernick through every struggle and every triumph, and neither knows what is next for the franchise's future considering the speculation Harbaugh won't return for the final season of his $25 million, five-year deal signed in January 2011.
“It's huge when you have a coach that's going to support you through thick and thin and I think it's reciprocal,” Kaepernick said. “I support him through everything and he's a great coach. He's done a great job with this team and he's still working as hard as he can to make sure we're ready and prepared to play.”
Over the past two games, San Francisco has been outscored 43-16 and Kaepernick combined to go 34 of 62 for 295 yards with four interceptions and nine sacks in losses to the Seahawks and lowly Oakland. He had passer ratings of 36.7 and 54.4.
One person who would like to see a few more balls from Kaepernick come his way is tight end Vernon Davis, who has followed a career year with a quiet one. A year after catching 13 touchdown passes to match his career high and 52 receptions for 850 yards, Davis has 25 catches for 236 yards and two TDs.
“I don't know what that is. I'm not sure,” Davis said. “For me, it's all about coming here, showing up and doing what I have to do to contribute. As far as not getting the ball, I leave that up to the offensive coordinator. It's his call. It's very hard, yes, oh yeah. I look at myself as a playmaker, not just as someone who's blocking. I enjoy it. I would love to be involved a little bit more. I would love that. That would be amazing. It's out of my control.”
Davis and the rest of Kaepernick's teammates and coaches appreciate his effort to get things back on track — and fast.
“He wants to be great,” running back Frank Gore said. “When things aren't going your way, you carry that on your shoulders. I understand it. I've been there before. He'll get better as he grows as a player knowing that things happen in football games. He'll be fine. … He's got our respect in here.”