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So far, the competition for the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback job has been one-sided. Blaine Gabbert has been taking the majority of snaps during organized team activities and the coaching staff has spoken highly of him in regards to his athleticism and had work. Teammates have spoken highly of Gabbert as a leader. "Blaine Gabbert's doing a great job taking control of the offense and leading the offense," said center Daniel Kilgore last month.
Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick has not yet been cleared to practice with his teammates. Although, he has been working hard to ensure that, once cleared, he is in a good situation to compete. He has been praised by coaches for his work in the classroom as Chip Kelly's staff works to install the team's new offense. "He's great in the classroom and has a great grasp of what we are doing," said Kelly in May.
On Thursday, during the 49ers' final practice of OTAs, Kaepernick was seen throwing on the practice field for the first time. However, he cannot participate in drills until he is cleared by the medical staff. Before Thursday, Kaepernick had only been witnessed throwing with the training staff on the side of the practice field. While on the field, he has only been mimicking the quarterbacks' in an effort to better prepare himself.
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"As he has throughout OTAs, Kaepernick shadowed whoever took snaps at quarterback, standing some 5 yards behind them and mimicking their footwork. He completed at least one pass to a running back in a warm-up drill in which four quarterbacks throw to four targets," said Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group.
Kelly has already stated that Kaepernick is not behind in the quarterback competition and the coaching staff has no timetable for a return or a self-imposed deadline to name a starter. "There is no fall behind, because there is no behind. There's not a race," said Kelly. "I don't have a timetable. You can't put a timetable on it. It has to express itself and let it happen organically," he continued in regards to a deadline.
Will Kaepernick be cleared for the 49ers' first mandatory minicamp which runs next week from June 7 through 9? It's not up to the coaching staff and they are simply working to prepare the players in any capacity they can, whether that be on the field, in the classroom, or both. "We as coaches, our jobs are to coach who's out there on the field practicing. Whenever they say Colin's healthy, I'm sure he'll be there. He's around us, he's in the meetings, he's doing a great job. It's not up to me when he's released, so we'll see," said 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins this week.
Numerous beat writers believe that Kaepernick is close to being cleared and seeing him throw on Thursday reaffirmed that belief. Chris Biderman of Niners Wire even believes that it may occur in time for next week's practices. "It's likely Kaepernick will get fully cleared for practice during the mandatory sessions next week. Still, it might behoove the 49ers to wait until training camp before throwing him back out there," said Biderman on Wednesday.
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Obviously Kaepernick's health is the priority for the coaching staff. He has been rehabbing from multiple surgeries. Kaepernick tore a ligament in his throwing hand's thumb during an October 22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. During his next game, a November 1 matchup against the St. Louis Rams, Kaepernick said that he suffered a bone bruise and cracked cartilage. That game would be his last of the season before being benched in favor of Gabbert and eventually placed on injured reserve.
"I think what's important is that he gets cleared when he's healthy. We'll go from there. So, there's no timetable. Whenever they say he's healthy, he'll be out there," Modkins told the media this week.
Despite Kelly's insistence that he wanted Kaepernick around, general manager Trent Baalke flirted with the idea of trading the quarterback prior to the draft. A deal was reportedly close with the Denver Broncos, where he likely would have cemented his place as the guy to beat for the starting job following the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure of Brock Osweiler to the Houston Texans. The only holdup was money. Broncos general manager wanted Kaepernick to take a pay cut, which was something the quarterback was unwilling to do. After all, Kaepernick can potentially earn nearly $15.9 million this year in San Francisco according to salary cap tracking site Spotrac.com.
The Broncos would eventually draft a quarterback of the future with their first-round selection of Paxton Lynch, leaving Kaepernick married to the 49ers. However, Kaepernick has had perfect attendance during the team's offseason program, which started on April 4. He will earn a $400,000 workout bonus for taking part in at least 90-percent of the offseason program, which concludes with next week's minicamp.
There is a lot of time until the 49ers kick off their regular season against the Los Angeles Rams on September 12 at Levi's Stadium. The Kaepernick versus Gabbert battle is likely about to heat up soon and remain the biggest 49ers offseason storyline until then.