Thursday night’s final exhibition game for the 49ers will be the Colin Kaepernick Show.
Certainly, there will be other issues for the 49ers going into the 7 p.m. game with the Chargers in San Diego. Jobs are still on the line at several positions. The opening-day roster will soon have to be set.
But all that will take a back seat to the spotlight on Colin Kaepernick.
First, there’s the attention he’ll get after deciding not to stand for the national anthem before last week’s game vs. the Packers at Levi’s Stadium, then discussing his reasons for it this week and becoming the focus of national media.
Said Kaepernick, to the NFL.com’s Steve Wyche after last week’s game: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
So, everybody in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego will be watching what Kaepernick does during the national anthem. And, as it turns out, the game happens to one that the Chargers have long designated as their 28th annual Salute to the Military game.
Kaepernick has said his protest has nothing to do with disrespecting the military. He says it’s about “the fight for liberty and justice for everyone.”
The pregame celebration will feature a Marine Corps band, a parachute team of former military members – including Navy SEALs –and an anthem sung by a Navy petty officer.
And second, Kaepernick’s status as player on this team still is to be determined.
After missing the first two exhibition games with a sore shoulder, Kaepernick didn’t make his preseason debut until Game 3 vs. the Packers, and his results weren’t good.
He completed just 2-of-6 passes for 14 yards, with two of those passes deflected by Packers defenders. His quarterback rating was 42.4, the lowest on the team this summer. He also ran four times for 18 yards.
Kaepernick went into training camp in competition with Blaine Gabbert for the starting job, but now will have to produce a monster game in order to win the job. Gabbert – whom head coach Chip Kelly says will not play Thursday night – has been efficient, with a 90.3 quarterback rating. Gabbert has completed 12-of-22 throws for 146 yards and one touchdown, without an interception, while running five times for 33 yards.
Kelly told the media Tuesday that Kaepernick will get plenty of playing time.
“We’ve got a good understanding of where Blaine is,” Kelly said. “Unfortunately, because of Colin’s injury, missing those first two preseason games, he’s only gotten 13 snaps. We’ve got to move forward and see if we can get him some more snaps here.”