SANTA CLARA, Calif. — By now it’s clear that quarterback Colin Kaepernick won’t be back with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. But his teammates said they find it hard to believe Kaepernick isn’t employed at all at this point in the offseason.
“I am surprised,” running back Carlos Hyde said. “I’ve seen some quarterbacks [that] got signed that Kap is way better than, in my opinion. But I’m not a GM. I’m not a head coach. So that’s out of my league.”
The Niners opened their offseason conditioning program on Monday and did so for the first time without Kaepernick since 2010. Kaepernick opted out of his contract in March, becoming an unrestricted free agent. In the time since, the 49ers signed veterans Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Coach Kyle Shanahan has explained multiple times that sticking with Kaepernick would have meant having to tailor the offense to his skills, rather than having a scheme that multiple quarterbacks could embrace.
Other teams have expressed similar concerns.
“You don’t just run stuff and think you’re going to be good at it right away,” Shanahan said Monday. “You’ve got to commit to it and work at it year-round, and it’s all the positions. When all your quarterbacks have different ways to be successful — which I’ve been in situations like that and you try to prepare them best — it does take a toll on your offense. What are you trying to get good at?
“You can’t practice everything. You can’t be great at everything. You’ve kind of got to commit to something and do it over and over and over again and once the type of running game or dropback game, you’re going to commit to one quarterback is completely different than the other, then that does affect your team.
Shanahan added: “That’s why I think it can be harder when those type of guys are going through competitions and stuff and like that, because even though you’re trying to find the best guy, by trying to be fair to those quarterbacks, you’re also being unfair to a team.”
While Kaepernick is still seeking a job, 17 free-agent quarterbacks have either signed with new teams or re-signed with their previous clubs. On Monday morning, T.J. Yates signed with Buffalo and Matt McGloin landed with Philadelphia.
Kaepernick has been a polarizing figure after choosing to kneel during the national anthem last season in protest of racial oppression and inequality in the United States. Although his representation has reportedly informed teams that Kaepernick plans to stand for the anthem this season, debates have raged about how his political stance has affected his ability to find a landing spot.
Like Hyde, Niners linebacker NaVorro Bowman is also surprised by Kaepernick’s continued free agency.
“I think he’s proven that he can play at this level,” Bowman said. “He’s made a choice that’s kind of had a little backlash from it. But I think he’ll be fine.”
Niners general manager John Lynch said at last week’s owners meetings that he had information that Kaepernick was close to signing with a team early in the offseason, but it apparently fell through and he was unsure why. Kaepernick started the final 11 games of last season for the Niners, throwing for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions for a passer rating of 90. It was his best season since 2013 and teammates voted him the Len Eshmont Award winner as the “most courageous and inspirational” player.
“Someone will give him a job,” Bowman said. “He’s not like a bad guy or anything. So I think that’s what matters in the NFL, if you can play at this level and your character is great. So I wish him the best.”