Kelly: Kaepernick's Play, Not Health, Reason He's Not Starting - NBC Bay Area

Kelly: Kaepernick's Play, Not Health, Reason He's Not Starting

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    SANTA CLARA – Colin Kaepernick's game is not at the same level as when he was at his peak, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said on Wednesday.

    Kelly has repeatedly cited Kaepernick's loss of weight and strength when discussing his backup quarterback. Kaepernick's best full season as the 49ers' starting quarterback came in his first full season as the team's starter.

    Kaepernick is healthy enough to be the starter, Kelly said on Wednesday. Kaepernick underwent surgeries on his shoulder, knee and thumb and appeared to lose more than 20 pounds during the offseason.

    But Kelly seemed to suggest that Kaepernick's play in practice has prompted him to consider moving him into the starting lineup ahead of starter Blaine Gabbert.

    "He was cleared to play when he got back and he's played in games for us, but he's not the same guy right now that he was in 2013," Kelly said. "That's the only point I'm trying to make."

    Kelly said he has not closed the door on Kaepernick's opportunity to improve his play and win the job.

    "He has a chance every single day," Kelly said. "Everybody has a chance every single day. But if you ask me where he is, he's not where he was in 2013. That's the only thing I'm pointing out. So he's not 100-percent back from the recovery standpoint."

    Kaepernick did not participate fully in the 49ers' offseason program. He missed nearly two weeks of training camp with arm fatigue.

    "He's 100-percent healed from those injuries," Kelly said. "So that allows him to play in the game. But is he the same player that he was when he was running 4.5 and throwing the ball all over the place? He's not that guy right now because he's not where he was physically. You can just look at him physically. He's not the same guy right now. That doesn't mean he can't be the same guy and he's working as hard as anybody I've ever been around to get back to be that right now."

    Kaepernick has served as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback behind Gabbert for each of the team's three games. Christian Ponder, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback, has not been active for the team's first three games.

    "Right now, he's our second quarterback and Blaine's our first quarterback," Kelly said of Kaepernick. "So that's what I'm saying."

    Kaepernick started all 16 games for the 49ers in 2013 -- the season after he replaced Alex Smith as the starter midway through the season and ended up in Super Bowl XLVII. Kaepernick threw 21 touchdowns with eight interceptions and had a passer rating of 91.6.

    Kaepernick's production dropped off in 2014. Kaepernick was benched last year after eight games in favor of Gabbert. He ended up undergoing season-ending surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, in addition to surgeries on his right thumb and left knee.