SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly isn't going to make a change at quarterback right now, in part because he doesn't think backup Colin Kaepernick is healthy enough to handle the job.
Kelly said Sunday that he didn't consider pulling starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert in favor of Kaepernick during the team's 37-18 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He has spoken recently of Kaepernick's need to gain weight to get back to where he needs to be to play a full game. On Monday, Kelly reiterated that stance.
"He’s capable to be the backup," Kelly said. "But I don’t think he’s ready to go full-time. He’s continuing to work on it. I think he’s over [on the practice field working out] right now. And Kap will be the first to tell you, if you guys have been around here before, I think his playing weight has been around 225, and he’s not at that right now. So he’s going out there and continuing to work, continuing to get better. He had a serious layoff in terms of being able to medical rehab. To get the full Kap for what you need, the potential that he has, he needs to continue to just work on the physical aspect of things.”
That had been a work in progress for Kaepernick since the offseason, when he began comeback efforts from shoulder, thumb and knee injuries, and again in the preseason, when he dealt with shoulder fatigue that cost him the first three exhibition games. Kelly has said multiple times that Kaepernick has worked hard to get back to where he needs to be. That much was evident Monday, when Kaepernick was working out on a practice field as Kelly held his news conference.
For his part, Kaepernick said Sunday that he believed he was in good enough physical shape to play at a high level, but he has also acknowledged that he isn't where he wants to be, in terms of his size.
"I’m out at practice every day working, making sure that I’m ready for when that time does come," Kaepernick said. "Oh yeah, I’m always ready to step on that field and looking forward to that opportunity."
Gabbert and the Niners' offense had another rough outing Sunday against the Seahawks, with Gabbert finishing 14-of-25 for 119 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Through the first three weeks, Gabbert sits 30th in the NFL in passer rating (68.6), 27th in passing yards (532) and last in yards per attempt (5.54).
Those struggles have left some clamoring for a change, though it's worth noting that Gabbert fared well in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams and has struggled on the road against top-level defenses in Seattle and the Carolina Panthers.
Gabbert figures to stay in the starting job for the near term, at least until Kelly gets comfortable with where Kaepernick is physically. Kelly has kept Kaepernick as the No. 2 quarterback behind Gabbert, believing that he is capable of filling in but not yet in position to play a full game's worth of snaps and take the beating that goes with that.
"Kap is our No. 2 right now, and everybody wants to know why Kap isn’t our No. 1," Kelly said. "I don’t think Kap is 100 percent right now. So that’s what I’m saying.”
The other element at play is the need for Kaepernick to get a full grasp on the offense. Although he took mental reps throughout the offseason, he has only recently been able to get reps in practice to execute what he has seen. Kelly has given Kaepernick as many as a quarter of the reps with the first-team in practice, though he said Monday that depends in part on the opponent and the scout team needs in a given week.
“He got a lot more reps last week because it was a lot of doing some work as [Seattle's] Russell Wilson," Kelly said. "I don’t know the exact number, how we broke that part down, but he got more reps last week because of kind of who we were playing. So some of our scout-squad reps we were able to run our offense because Seattle does some similar things to us. So he got some reps doing that too. So I don’t know the exact number he got last week, whether it was third, quarter, whatever. I don’t know exactly what it was, but he did get more reps last week.”
As for whether Kaepernick will get his opportunity sooner than later, Kelly plans to play it by ear and see how Gabbert fares this week against the Dallas Cowboys.
“We’ll just see how we go offensively," Kelly said. "I mean, if we score 65 touchdowns next week, then I don’t see him getting a shot.”