SANTA CLARA – The last time Colin Kaepernick opened the season as the 49ers' backup quarterback, the offense had a package designed to utilize his running skills as a complement to starter Alex Smith.
Is it possible the 49ers could employ such an approach while Blaine Gabbert remains as the team's starter?
Coach Chip Kelly, without ruling it out, said the athleticism of his quarterbacks does not create such a stark difference that could prompt such an approach.
"Both quarterbacks have similar skills, so I think maybe if you had one quarterback that ran the 40 in 5.4 and another quarterback who ran the 40 in 4.5, there's some distinct difference between the two of them," Kelly said on Friday.
"One of unique things about here is that both of our quarterbacks -- even all three of them because Christian (Ponder) can run. So all three of them have that aspect in them and all three of them have done it in the preseason."
Ponder, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback scored on a 22-yard run during the exhibition season against the Denver Broncos. He rushed for three touchdowns. During the exhibition season, Gabbert had a 13-yard run, while Kaepernick had a 20-yard gain.
During the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, Kaepernick ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds. Gabbert's time was 4.66 seconds, while Ponder clocked in at 4.72 seconds.
"So I think sometimes teams do that when there's a difference between the runability between one and two," Kelly said.
Kaepernick's running ability played a role in early-season victories against Green Bay and the New York Jets in 2012 before he took over for Smith as the 49ers' starter. He had a 17-yard run to set up a field goal before halftime against the Packers, and he rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown three weeks later against the Jets.
Kelly has noted that Kaepernick still has not regained the strength and weight he lost this offseason after undergoing three surgeries and being forced to refrain from his usual offseason conditioning.