Kaepernick returns, continues to fight on and off the field

Kaepernick returns, continues to fight on and off the field

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Whether it was on or off the field, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick experienced some good with a lot of bad on Sunday in his return to the starting lineup.

The 49ers and Kaepernick had some success in the first half before crumbling as the game wore on in a 45-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills. It was the 49ers’ fifth consecutive loss.

“I thought it was OK,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said in evaluating Kaepernick’s performance. “There were some positives that you can really build on that I thought he did.

“We got to be better overall on offense. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s everybody on the offensive side of the ball. I thought he really made some plays with his legs today.”

Kaepernick’s stat line was pedestrian. He completed just 13 of 29 pass attempts for 187 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked three times. He also gained a team-high 66 yards rushing on eight attempts.

Kaepernick appears certain to remain as the starting quarterback for at least a while after Blaine Gabbert started five games. But when asked if Kaepernick would start next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kelly answered, “Yeah, we’ll see.”

Just like Gabbert who regularly misfired on big-play chances to open receivers, Kaepernick missed an opportunity for a big play on the 49ers’ first possession when he overshot wide receiver Torrey Smith on a deep post pattern. Instead of a touchdown, the 49ers were forced to punt.

“That would’ve been big to come out that way and give us that lead and being able to play from there,” Kaepernick said. “(It) might’ve been a little juice being out there and having that opportunity. Saw the coverage and knew we had it and let it fly a little too long.”

Kaepernick later found Smith on a 53-yard touchdown pass – a throw that appeared to get held up in the 22-mph wind. The underthrown pass forced Smith to stop to make the catch. Smith had to restart his engine and cut across the field to make it into the end zone.

Kaepernick generated a lot of pregame attention for his demonstration to bring attention to racial inequalities in the United States. Kaepernick, Eric Reid and Eli Harold took a knee on the sideline during the playing of the national anthem to continue to the protest.

“I had some Bills fans come up before the game and say they support me,” said Kaepernick, who wore a shirt that paid homage to the late Muhammad Ali. “I think it all depends on who the person is. At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to fight what I’m fighting for.”

Shortly before the national anthem, a loud chant of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” broke out in the stadium – seemingly directed at Kaepernick, whom some believe is taking an anti-American position. But Kaepernick said he believes there is nothing more American than his peaceful protest designed to help those who are less fortunate than him.

“I don’t understand what’s un-American about fighting for liberty and justice for everybody, for the equality that this country says it stands for,” Kaepernick said. “To me, I see it as very patriotic and American to uphold the United States to the standards it says it lives by. It’s something that needs to be addressed.”

The anti-Kaepernick expressions continued while he was on the sideline, his teammate Quinton Patton said.

“It’s a lot of negative and a lot of harsh stuff coming toward Kap on the sideline and everybody doesn’t know that,” Patton said. “He’s getting all the heat from everybody and anybody. You got to be a strong individual.

“I’ve heard A to Z out there.”

Although no members of the Buffalo Bills have joined in the protest during the national anthem, Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin approached Kaepernick after the game to request a jersey swap. Goodwin represented the U.S. as a long-jumper in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Jerick McKinnon fits into 49ers' plan for upcoming season, GM John Lynch says


Jerick McKinnon fits into 49ers' plan for upcoming season, GM John Lynch says

PHOENIX – The 49ers could get out of Jerick McKinnon’s contract with minimal financial impact before next week.

But general manager John Lynch believes it would be foolish for the team to part ways with McKinnon prior to April 1.

“Yeah, Jerick is going to be a part of us,” Lynch said Monday at the NFL owners meeting. “We’re excited to see that through.”

As part of the terms of the four-year, $30 million contract the sides agreed upon last year, McKinnon’s full $3.7 million salary for 2019 becomes fully guaranteed next Monday. He can also earn another $300,000 in bonuses during the upcoming season.

McKinnon picked up $11.7 million in fully guaranteed money at signing last year, but his season ended before it ever began. McKinnon sustained a season-ending torn ACL a week bfore the start of the regular season. He is on pace for a full return for training camp, according to the team.

“Jerick’s working incredibly hard,” Lynch said. “He’s always had a chip on his shoulder because that was his first opportunity to be the guy. I’m sure he’ll have a bigger chip on his shoulder. But he’s very much a part of our plans. The way he’s working is very encouraging. But it’s a big thing to come back from, that’s for sure. Yeah, Jerick is going to be a part of us.”

The 49ers’ signing of free-agent running back Tevin Coleman was the source of some speculation about McKinnon’s future. Lynch said the 49ers did not enter the offseason determined to add a veteran running back.

"We were comfortable going into the season with our running back group," Lynch said.

Former Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell was among the top players available on the open market. Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the New York Jets. The market was soft for the other running backs. Coleman, who played two seasons with Kyle Shanahan as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, signed a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the 49ers.

“We saw an opportunity with Tevin and we pounced on it, because we knew the player he was,” Lynch said. “And that’s one where Kyle had first-hand experience with him. If we could do it at that price, absolutely, we’d be involved. We worked hard to get it done, and we’re really thrilled.”

Coleman and McKinnon are joined by running backs Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson on the 49ers’ offseason roster. Lynch said the club is currently not engaged in trade talks of any kind.

49ers confirm visits with top NFL draft prospects, including Nick Bosa

49ers confirm visits with top NFL draft prospects, including Nick Bosa

PHOENIX – Four of the top defensive players are scheduled to travel to Santa Clara to meet with the 49ers before the NFL draft.

General manager John Lynch confirmed Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Michigan’s Rashan Gary will be among the team’s 30 allowed pre-draft visits.

The visits will begin next week, Lynch said on Monday at the NFL owners meeting. The 49ers have not finalized their entire list of visits.

“That’s fluid,” Lynch said. “We’re still putting that (list) together.”

When asked whether the 49ers have narrowed down their selection with the No. 2 overall pick to Bosa, Williams and Allen, Lynch said the team is still in the process of determining the draft plan.

“Those guys are really good players,” Lynch said. “I think anybody would be interested in picking high. We can’t just settle in on two or three guys and say these are our guys here.”

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Lynch and 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters met last week with Williams and Bosa. The 49ers took Williams to IHOP in Tuscaloosa, at Williams’ request.

“I hadn’t been to IHOP in 10 years,” Lynch said. “The thing that stunk, I was all fired up for pigs in a blanket because that was my go-to when I used to go to IHOP as a kid. He went all healthy on me. He had a garden omelet, so I felt compelled to have a garden omelet, too.”