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Enemy Lines: Colin Kaepernick

Posted Dec 12, 2013

Third-year QB Colin Kaepernick has San Francisco at 9-4 and in the thick of the playoff race a year after leading them to the Super Bowl, and he also has the full support of his teammates and coaches

  • San Francisco Head Coach Jim Harbaugh praised the performance and leadership of his quarterback, Colin Kaepernick
  • Kaepernick called the Bucs' defense "physical" but feels the 49ers have an offense to match that style of play
  • Former 49ers teammate Dashon Goldson sees some positive changes in Kaepernick's game this year
Maybe it was the 32-7 and 31-21 wins he engineered in his first two NFL starts, or the memorable victory at New England he helped pull off during last year's playoff stretch drive, or eye-popping 181 yards he ran for in his first NFL playoff experience. Perhaps it was nearly leading his team to a Super Bowl championship or posting a passer rating near 100 in his first season as an NFL starter.

Or maybe it's just the natural ups and downs that come with being a sudden star at the most scrutinized position in sports, a phenomenon Washington's Robert Griffin III has experienced to an even greater degree this year.

Whatever the reason, third-year San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick doesn't seem to be nearly as appreciated outside of Marie P. DeBartolo Sports Center as he is inside 49ers headquarters this year. Mind you, this is a player who has thrown for 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions, run for 407 yards and three scores, compiled a strong 7.49 yards per pass attempt and led his team to a 9-4 record and another very likely playoff berth.

Kaepernick has had his share of detractors in 2013, but his coaches and teammates are most definitely not among that number.

-- 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has run for 407 yards and three touchdowns
“I am around him hourly, around him daily and we are extremely pleased with his play, his leadership, what he brings to our team and feel very good about the way he’s progressing," said 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh as his team prepared for a trip to Tampa. “We’re really pleased with the way Colin has progressed as a player, as a contributor, leader in the locker room – the entire package. We’re extremely pleased, like I said.”

Kaepernick famously uses those detractors – such as NFL analyst (and former Buccaneer and 49er) Trent Dilfer and a legion of less-than-tactful Twitter followers – as motivation. At this point in the season, however, he's clearly not interested in digging too deep into the subject, preferring to focus on the next challenge on the football field.

“I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well; there’s always things you can improve on," said Kaepernick, succinctly. “We’re just trying to keep putting wins together.”

That next challenge happens to be the Buccaneers, who have the reverse win-loss record but have won four of their last five, including their last three at Raymond James Stadium, where Sunday's game will take place. Kaepernick described Tampa Bay's defense, which racked up seven sacks and four interceptions against Buffalo last Sunday and is the NFL leader in picks, as "very fast and very physical," but thinks the 49ers have the offense to counter.

“I think we have a pretty physical team, we try to preach that, he said. "We’ll see it on Sunday on how we matchup.”

The Bucs defense clearly took on more of a physical edge in 2013 when former 49er and 2012 All-Pro Dashon Goldson was brought on to patrol free safety. The 49ers found a very able replacement in first-round pick Eric Reid, who is second on the team with three interceptions, but Kaepernick would still rather avoid any on-field meetings with his former teammate.

“He’s a great teammate, he’s a great player," said Kaepernick of Goldson. "He does everything right, he did everything right while he was here. He’s fast, he’s physical, and is a ball-hawk. I’m not looking forward to having him on the other side.”

Goldson is not among the Kaepernick detractors, either. In fact, he has been impressed with the evolution of the 49er's game, most notably his decision-making when running the football.

"He's playing smarter, and he's still making some great throws," said Goldson. "He's pulling it off. I know he took a lot of criticism early on and probably still, but he's still a good football player and he's maintaining that."