If there’s a head coach in the NFL that Colin Kaepernick resembles most this week, it’s not Jim Harbaugh.
It’s Bill Belichick.
Look at any of Belichick’s recent quotes from a news conference, take away the hooded sweatshirt and replace it with a goatee and a few tattoos, and you have Colin Kaepernick. One-word answers, respect for his opponents, praise for just about every person in the locker room — Kaepernick’s concise, almost-robotic responses to a flurry of questions from all sorts of media outlets have constituted a Belichick-ian performance.
Colin Kaepernick is a tremendous quarterback, a respected voice in the locker room and on the cusp of bringing a Super Bowl back to San Francisco for the first time since 1995.
Media maven? No. That, he is not.
“That’s Colin, man,” 49ers teammate Aldon Smith said with a laugh Wednesday. “He’s not going to be in the headlines. He’s not going to give a big quote. He’s just going to focus on the game. He’s been that way since we were both drafted together (in 2011). He’s all about the football.”
49ers players and coaches insist that Kaepernick’s short, measured responses this week — often one word, very rarely with a smile or a wink — are not manufactured. He was not instructed by a 49ers public relations specialist or an outside “media relations firm” to keep his answers short and sweet and his personality guarded. He’s just focused on football. He’s not looking to be a media darling. He’s looking to lead his 49ers team to a Super Bowl victory in just his 10th career NFL start.
“You can’t really sit a guy down and say, ‘Hey, this is Super Bowl media week and this is how it’s going to be and this is how we need you to be,’ ” teammate Alex Boone said. “Colin’s just taking everything in stride. That’s just who he is.”
“Jim [Harbaugh] threw the word ‘savant-like’ out before the Green Bay game,” quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst said. “He knew the game plan cold. That’s a good thing. The same Kap you see today is the same Kap we’ve known all along.”
The “savant-like” Kaepernick has drawn comparisons to everyone from Randall Cunningham to Cam Newton. 49ers receiver Mario Manningham, however, suggested a name that hasn’t been likened to Kaepernick all too often.
“He’s a lot like Eli [Manning],” Manningham, Manning’s former Giants teammate, said. “You know how Eli is? He doesn’t say anything, man. But he’ll tear your heart out the second he gets on the field? Kap is the same way. Both of them — they’re silent but deadly.”
“He means business right now,” Manningham added. “When he’s in that jersey — he means business. He isn’t going to give you or anybody in the media too much. Not Kap. He’s not going to be running his mouth in things like this.”
Trust me, we know.
But is there a personality underneath all that? Is he all business — always?
“Oh, Kap is funny, man,” Manningham insisted. “He’s got jokes. He’s a cool dude. He’s got some great lines, but you know, he picks his spots. He may not be joking with all of you this week, but trust me, he’s like any one of us. He fits right in with the rest of the locker room.”
Boone, too, said there’s a much lighter side to Kaepernick, beneath the short answers and the focused glare of this week.
“We love hanging out with him. If you push his buttons, he actually has a real wiseass side of him,” Boone said Wednesday. “Obviously, we’re his offensive line, so we love messing with him. We make fun of his tattoos. We say he’s real tiny. He’s a great sport about it, and if we push his buttons hard enough, he fires back.”
“Take me,” Boone continued. “If I push his buttons, he’ll fire back. He’ll say my arms are smaller than his. He’ll say my Mohawk doesn’t look cool. It’s all in good fun, of course, but yeah — he messes with us back, for sure. Kap can give it.”
Joe Staley, another 49ers offensive lineman, did his best Colin Kaepernick impression on Wednesday. When I asked him to respond to a question as if he was Kap, Staley went into full “Saturday Night Live” mode.
A blank stare.
A one-word answer.
Then, a mumbled, “No.”
But Staley, too, said there’s a whole lot more to Colin Kaepernick than what the world is getting this week. “He definitely has a personality. He’s not all doldrums all the time. He’s really just one of the guys. He laughs and we wisecrack and all that stuff.”
Michael Crabtree has a rather unique relationship with Kaepernick. “He’s my steam-room buddy," Crabtree laughed. "He’s my dude! Man, me and Kap crack jokes all the time. We do all of our talking in the steam room.”
“We’ve got some real characters on this team,” Crabtree added. “You wouldn’t even believe it. Every day, it’s something different. Kap’s a bit on the quiet side, but he gets involved. I mean, he’s in a locker room with guys like Randy Moss. He’s a quiet dude. He’s cool, man. He’s the quarterback. He’s the one that makes us go.”
If you’re waiting for a “gotcha moment,” a slip-up, or an incriminating quote out of Colin Kaepernick’s mouth this week, keep waiting.
You’ll be there for a while.
Though he’s just 25 years old and was a little-known running quarterback at the University of Nevada about two years ago, he’s as polished as they come. He’s handled this week’s media crush just about as well as any young quarterback possibly could.
“He is so focused and conscientious on his work,” backup quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “It’s his first, second and third priority. And you know what? That’s a really refreshing thing. He is a guy who says the least but leads the most. It’s been an incredible learning experience for me, just to watch and play alongside a guy like Colin.”
“This — the Super Bowl, everything — has probably been a realistic goal in his mind for a long time. They’re goals that he’s wanted to reach,” Tolzien added. “People may have been counting him out, but in his mind, he’s always had a goal to be right here where he is today.”
But how about something controversial for the media to dig into? Is there anything?
“I wouldn’t bet on getting any headline-worthy quotes out of Colin this week," Tolzien said with a laugh. "But shoot, I don’t know, I guess there’s a chance. After all, he’s doing a thousand interviews, right? There’s always a chance he messes up with one of them."