SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Still steaming over the Super Bowl loss, Colin Kaepernick packed up his belongings in the 49ers locker room and made plans with teammates to work out this offseason.
They won’t have to wait long.
Kaepernick said Tuesday that he’ll be training in the Atlanta area within a week, and the strong-armed and fleet-footed quarterback will bring some of his receivers along with him. All of it is part of Kaepernick’s quick evolution from backup to starter that will continue when he enters training camp as the unquestioned franchise star.
After losing 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans on Sunday, Kaepernick summed up his breakout second season “as not being good enough.” He said the Super Bowl loss will stick with him “for the rest of my life.”
“It’s good to get the experience,” Kaepernick said. “We should have won that game regardless, though.”
A man of few words and a lot of yards, Kaepernick’s potential might give 49ers fans reason to be optimistic more than anything following the first Super Bowl loss in the franchise’s storied history.
Kaepernick threw for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions in the regular season, starting seven games after taking over for Alex Smith, who will likely be traded or released in the coming months to clear salary-cap space. He also ran for 415 yards and five touchdowns.
Kaepernick really ran away with his new role in the playoffs.
As San Francisco started utilizing more of the Pistol offense he made famous at Nevada, Kaepernick threw for 798 yards and four touchdowns in three postseason games. He also ran for 264 yards and three scores, including a quarterback-playoff record 181 yards rushing in a divisional-round victory over Green Bay.
“He was fantastic the entire season,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “The stage was not too big for him. He competed at the highest level and played extremely well. He showed a lot of poise, a lot of leadership the entire game. I can’t say enough, really. With Colin, it’s always just appropriate.
“He’s got the appropriate amount of competitive fire when you need competitive fire. He’s got the appropriate amount of happy and joy when it’s the right time to have that. He plays the game. You just really feel him playing the game, upset when it’s the right time to be upset. And he does that with his own personality. I really believe that’s the way people should play.”
Coming up 5 yards short in the Super Bowl will still haunt Kaepernick forever.
He added only a few more new details on the final, fourth-down play. He said he audibled to the corner fade to Michael Crabtree once Baltimore showed blitz.
Crabtree got tangled up with cornerback Jimmy Smith, and Harbaugh begged and pleaded with officials from the sideline for a flag that never came. Kaepernick remained testy and defiant when questioned about his decision.
“I’ll take Crab one-on-one with anybody,” he said, tersely.
A year after losing 20-17 in overtime in the NFC title game to the eventual champion New York Giants, one thing the 49ers no longer have to worry about is a long-term quarterback.
All of 25 years old, Kaepernick knows he has time to join Joe Montana and Steve Young as Super Bowl winners in San Francisco, which had been 5-0 in the NFL’s marquee game. Being the only quarterback in 49ers history to lose a Super Bowl is still something that will simmer no matter how many titles he wins.
“We had a good team,” Kaepernick said. “We just weren’t quite there.”
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