Maiocco: Third exhibition critical for 49ers QBs


Maiocco: Third exhibition critical for 49ers QBs

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
Rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick will play with the 49ers' first-team offense against the Houston Texans' first-team defense Saturday night at Candlestick Park.
Coach Jim Harbaugh is going against conventional NFL wisdom that the third exhibition game is the time to get your starters ready for the regular season, which begins 15 days later.
Instead, Harbaugh is using the opportunity to learn more about his backups in a situation that is more like the regular season than anything else this time of year.Typically, when a backup quarterback plays in the exhibition season it's almost impossible to know what it all means. The backup is usually playing with other backups and against non-starting defensive players. Sometimes it's more akin to a college all-star game than actual NFL competition.This third exhibition game, however, should provide Harbaugh and his staff with a good gauge of where Kaepernick stands in his readiness to lead an NFL offense into a regular-season game.

RELATED: 49ers notes -- QB rotation of Smith, Kaepernick, Smith
Harbaugh has not announced whom will start for the 49ers in the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the Seattle Seahawks. We can all assume the quarterback will be Alex Smith, based on Harbaugh's comments last week that Smith has gained "separation" in the competition with Kaepernick.And, indeed, Harbaugh said Smith will start Saturday against the Texans. But Harbaugh is also clearly planning for the possibility the 49ers will need to replace Smith at some point in the regular season.Eighteen teams in the NFL last season had their backup quarterbacks play the equivalent of at least two games. So, yes, the odds are against Smith playing the entire season.Harbaugh has heaped effusive praise onto both Smith and Kaepernick during training camp. But we don't know if Harbaugh really believes he has a capable starting quarterback to open the season.RELATED: Maiocco -- 49ers' 53-man roster projection
Smith certainly needs more work in the West Coast system. But rather than playing the first half and opening the third quarter with the starters, Smith will share his prep time with the rookie.Kaepernick is listed as the No. 2, but he can go up or down based on this performance. If Kaepernick demonstrates his readiness, Harbaugh will have Smith on a shorter leash in the first half of the season.The 49ers signed veteran Josh McCown as a third quarterback -- an insurance policy. If Harbaugh determines Kaepernick simply is not ready, perhaps McCown would be the first quarterback called upon if a backup is needed in the regular season.Typically, the third exhibition game is considered the most important because it's the closest thing resembling a regular-season game.For the 49ers, it's the most important game because it might shape how Harbaugh handles his quarterbacks in the regular season.

LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’


LeBron James: Colin Kaepernick ‘had a vision like Martin Luther King’

LeBron James is an avid football fan. He's now an even bigger Colin Kaepernick fan than the sport. Following the Cavaliers' practice on Sunday, James opened up on Kaepernick and his absence from the NFL. 

"I've commended Kap, and for him to sacrifice everything for the greater good for everyone, for what he truly believed in, the utmost respect to him," James said to ESPN. "Obviously he had a vision like Martin Luther King and like some of our all-time greats that people couldn't see further than what they were doing at the point and time. And Muhammad Ali and things of that nature."

James believes the masses don't truly understand what Kaepernick was doing when he first took a knee as a protest against social and racial injustices in America. For his actions, James respects Kaepernick choosing his beliefs over his sport.

"When it's something that's new and it's something that people are not educated about or don't understand what your beliefs are all about, people are so quick to judge and people are so quick to say that what you're doing is wrong," James said. "For him to sacrifice the sport that he plays and to sacrifice the things he's done his whole life because he knew what he believed in, I salute him. I salute and respect that."

Add James to the list of those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee last season. The more games he watches, the more James sees the evidence on the wall. 

"I don't represent the NFL. I don't know their rules and regulations. But I do know Kap is getting a wrong doing, I do know that," James believes. "Just watching, he's an NFL player. He's an NFL player and you see all these other quarterbacks out there and players out there that get all these second and third chances that are nowhere near as talented as him. It just feels like he's been blackballed out of the NFL. So, I definitely do not respect that."

Kaepernick, who recently turned 30 years old, appeared in 12 games for the 49ers in the 2016-17 season. Through the air he completed 59.2 percent of his passes and ended the year with 2,241 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. Kaepernick also added 468 yards and two more scores on the ground. 

"The only reason I could say he's not on a team is because the way he took a knee," James said. "That's the only reason. I watch football every Sunday, every Thursday, every Monday night. I see all these quarterbacks -- first-string, second-team, third-team quarterbacks -- that play sometimes when the starter gets hurt or are starters that play. Kap is better than a lot of those guys. Let's just be honest."

For his career, Kaepernick has thrown for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns to 30 interceptions. With his speed as a dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick has also gained 2,300 yards rushing and 13 more touchdowns. 

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.