49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick doesn't necessarily see himself as a backup. Twelve days after San Francisco fell in overtime of the NFC Championship to close Kaepernick's rookie season, the former Nevada Wold Pack quarterback spoke with the Reno Gazette-Journal with an exclusive interview.
He addressed the highs and lows of his first NFL season, his personal growth and -- maybe most interestingly -- his goal for next season.
Kaepernick, whose offseason regimen was limited due to the lockout, admits there was a lot to adjust to in his first year.
"I learned a lot of things and got my eyes opened to the playbook, the length of the season and how complex the schemes are," Kaepernick said. "There were a lot of things to take in."
Kaepernick, 24, said he spoke with coaches Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman after the season about what he needs to do "to get better and get on the field." He has a few pieces of homework, "like working on different arm angles on throws and trying to speed up his feet."
Kaepernick is excited at the prospect of an entire offseason to work on his game. He said he "plans on trying to take the starting job" from Alex Smith next year. Someone told him "Coach Harbaugh said it's an open job. It will be earned." And Kaepernick is under the impression that "they'll give him a fair shot."
The 49ers traded up in the 2011 NFL Draft, selecting Kaepernick in the second round. He played in three games as a rookie, completing three of his five total pass attempts. But the big difference between the Colin Kaepernick that was drafted 36th overall in 2011 and the Colin Kaepernick who's beginning his first NFL offseason training program? He'll tell you it's his "comfort level with the offense and what's going on."
That comfort level was critical when Kaepernick was a big hit away from quarterbacking the NFC Championship, a place some quarterbacks go an entire career without reaching. Despite no game action, the playoff experience left a strong impression on the rookie, one reminiscent of the 49ers 1980s dynasty.
"Now, it's almost like an expectation," Kaepernick said of the playoffs. "For all us rookies, it's the only thing we know."
The last time the 49ers expected -- really expected -- to be in the playoffs year-in and year-out, Joe Montana was at the helm and Kaepernick was graduating from diapers.
If hopes of being a perennial NFL playoff quarterback are to come true, it'll be more than just a long offseason of work for Kaepernick. He's not biting off too much, too early, though. He just says he is "going to try to come in (at camp) and show them what he is capable of."
If he does that well -- and Harbaugh is true to his open competition -- he'll be putting pressure on Alex Smith to perform next season.
Nate Stuhlbarg is a web producer withCSNBayArea.com. Follow him on Twitter @StuhlbargCSN.