SANTA CLARA (AP) — Colin Kaepernick walked away from the podium and off the stage after dangling an interesting glimpse into what he went through and what went wrong during a disappointing 2014 season.
And just how different things are now, under a new coaching staff and in a new offensive system.
“The biggest thing is I’m being asked to be myself this year,” San Francisco’s fifth-year quarterback said.
“I don’t think anyone knows how to be myself better than me. It’s a comfort zone for me, it’s a situation where I’m not being asked to do things outside of my character.”
He wouldn’t elaborate much on those poignant remarks other than to say he was working out of his comfort zone during last year’s 8-8 season.
“Outside of how I would normally handle situations? Yeah,” he said. “I’m getting at that I was asked to do things outside of my character.”
Then, as another question came his way, Kaepernick promptly ended his weekly news conference on that. Whether that’s a subtle criticism of former coach Jim Harbaugh and ex-offensive coordinator Greg Roman is unclear — though it certainly came across as such.
Coach Jim Tomsula first referenced the differences for the quarterback earlier Wednesday.
“We’re not asking for the same things. It’s not the same,” Tomsula said. “There’s really not things to compare it to, what we’re asking him to do and what he’s been asked to do any other year.”
Kaepernick found a rhythm far too late in Sunday’s 43-18 loss at Pittsburgh, bouncing back from 61 yards passing in the first half to finish with 335 yards in the air. That included a 75-yard touchdown pass to new target Torrey Smith and six completions in all to Smith.
Still, Kaepernick was vulnerable and took five sacks. That comes after he was sacked 52 times last season, second-most in the NFL behind then Jaguars rookie Blake Bortles’ 55.
Smith is San Francisco’s top offseason acquisition after he signed a five-year deal with $22 million guaranteed that could pay him as much as $40 million. Yet he and Kaepernick never connected during the preseason and finally seem to be getting in sync on game day as they have regularly shown on the practice field.
“It’s actually easier in games because it’s new people,” Smith said of the opposing defense. “You just work hard and get it down and just translate to the game.”
The 49ers (1-1) will be under more pressure to protect Kaepernick on Sunday at first-place Arizona.
As an offense, the hope is to build off some of the big plays made late against the Steelers, such as Smith’s touchdown catch and even Anquan Boldin’s 14-yard TD reception that also came in the fourth quarter.
Left guard Alex Boone points to failures in the red zone as an area San Francisco must fix, and fast. The schedule early is daunting, and Sunday is the first division game in another hostile environment.
So far, at least, the 49ers are doing a better job getting plays in on time to avoid the regular clock issues that caused so many problems in recent years.
Boone acknowledged the offensive line must do more to avoid mistakes that lead to Kaepernick being rushed or unable to see a play through as planned.
“Another thing that’s kind of upsetting when you watch that game: when you get into the red zone and you can’t score three touchdowns,” Boone said.
“Now, would those three touchdowns have helped us win? I don’t know. But at the end of the day you get in the red zone, especially inside the 10, inside the 5, you’ve got to put the ball in the end zone. I don’t care who you are. You start not being able to do that and teams won’t respect you, they won’t fear you and then you’re in for a long day.”
Notes: Smith, WR Bruce Ellington, RB Carlos Hyde and TEs Vance McDonald and Blake Bell all were expected to practice in some capacity, perhaps some limited. None were expected to be serious enough to keep them out of Sunday’s game, Tomsula said. ... RB Reggie Bush, who hurt his calf in the Sept. 14 opener against Minnesota and didn’t play at Pittsburgh, was still rehabbing and to be evaluated by the training staff.