SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Colin Kaepernick was downright jovial Wednesday.
San Francisco's struggling quarterback, who is coming off arguably two of the worst performances of his career in his team's losses the last two weeks, struck an entirely different note in his weekly media scrum.
After infamously offering 87 words in response to 32 questions leading up to last week's game against the Raiders, Kaepernick went over nine minutes with the media Wednesday, offering laughter and smiles that hadn't been seen in media appearances since his press conference after signing his lucrative six-year extension over the summer.
And afterwards, Kaepernick took to the ping pong table stationed in the middle of the locker room and beat defending champion Bruce Miller, 21-18. It was the first time Kaepernick had played ping pong with the media lurching around. With the Seahawks ahead this week, 49ers fans should hope his performance against Miller can prove symbolic Sunday in Seattle, where San Francisco (7-6) hasn't won since 2011.
Whether or not it matters how Kaepernick deals with the media is up for each individual to decide. Arguments have been made on both sides, by both fans and media members alike.
But when it comes to Kaepernick, who's mostly introverted and often very hard on himself, his dealings with media underscore something else.
Kaepernick is often more open and elaborative when the team is winning and prone to shut down when the team's losing. Perhaps Wednesday was a sign that he is taking a step back, loosening up and realizing that carrying the enormous chip on his shoulder hasn't been helping his play - and the level of scrutiny he receives for his brevity with reporters. Of course, he's been encouraged by the organization to switch things up, too.
In two of his notably bad performances this year, Week 2 against the Bears and Sunday against the Raiders, Kaepernick often engaged with defenders in heated chatter after the play. In one instance against Chicago, he drew a personal foul penalty for using bad language. He was later fined, but won his appeal.
The point is, having a me-against-the-world mentality only works for very specific kinds of people. And based on what we knew about Kaepernick from before he became starter with the 49ers, he did not appear to have the personality ripe to take on that role.
More simply, it might behoove Kaepernick to not play angry. Perhaps Wednesday's media session was emblematic of a coming change this week as his team prepares for the Seahawks.
Here's the full transcript (questions in bold):
Do you feel better about things this week with practice?
“Yeah, we’re back to work trying to get ready for this next game, get back on a roll.”
Is it possible to have fun with this, enjoy this, this challenge, the whole thing? Sometimes people wonder if you’re having fun.
“Football’s always fun. It’s opportunity to go out and compete. That’s really why you play the game. So, for us, we just have to get back to going out and competing.”
Are you having fun personally right now or is this kind of uncharted territory for you with the losses, the disappointment on the field?
“I’ve lost games before, so it’s not uncharted territory. It’s just we have a high standard and everyone else has a high standard for us. So, if you lose a few games, it’s not a situation you want to be in and we’re trying to correct that.”
Do you relish the opportunity to face the Seahawks? Are they your favorite challenger?
“They have to be up there. Their defense is great. They do a lot of things well and it’s always good competition out there. And you have to be able to rise to those occasions.”
Raiders LB Sio Moore posted of a picture of you and him and wasn’t complimentary about you. What did you think about that incident and what did you think about what he said afterwards?
“I’m not too worried about what someone else is saying. I’m out there to compete and that’s really all I’m worried about, trying to help this team win.”
What happened in the tunnel? Did he challenge you in the tunnel there?
“A little bit and I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so exchanged a few words.”
What guys help you out after practice? Do you stick around after practice and work on routes or throws?
“We get a lot of work done in practice when we have breaks in between periods. Just trying to make sure we have our timing down, depths, route combinations, things like that, so we can go out and execute on Sundays.”
What have you taken from looking at the film from the NFC Championship Game up there that you can apply?
“That game and the game we played Thanksgiving are two games we look at and we try and take everything we can from those and see if we can attack them a different way to go out and try and get this win.”
You maintained after that game that the throw to WR Michael Crabtree that Seahawks CB Richard Sherman tipped that was intercepted, that was the right read; that was the right throw; you’d do it again. A lot of time has passed. Do you still feel that way about that play?
“Very much so. Once again, if I throw that ball a little bit further, we’re going to the Super Bowl. So, it’s not something I regret, I just have to throw a better ball.”
It seemed like the Raiders were intent on trying to get under your skin, especially in the second half. How do you deal with opponents when they’re in your earhole and they’re trying to bait you into penalties and stuff like that? What do you do during the game to deal with it?
“I really don’t worry about it too much. I have one thing in mind and that’s trying to get in the end zone and help this offense get there. So, once a play’s over, it’s onto the next play.”
Maybe because of last week, your answers have been kind of a national discussion, how you deal with media. Do you think that’s worth a discussion? Do you think it’s something that you can improve, you can think about? Anything like that?
“I think there’s a different way to go about things. Obviously, it’s something that I take my job very seriously and when I go out there and compete and I don’t do well, it’s something I’m very hard on myself about. So, it’s something that I have to be able to approach others differently with when I’m in those situations.”
You seem to be obviously using more words and you’re smiling. Is this something that you’ve thought about and thought maybe there’s a happy medium here as far as taking a different approach with us?
“Yeah, I think there is a happy medium and it’s something that obviously I’m working on and try to help you guys do your jobs as well.”
You played in that stadium up in Seattle as much as any quarterback. Is it possible to get more comfortable each time you do it? It’s a different kind of atmosphere. What’s your attitude about that?
“It is a different atmosphere, but I feel like it’s like anything you do. The more you do it, the more you’re there, the more comfortable you get with it. So, when we get up there, this offense should be fully prepared for what to expect.”
Can you be too hard on yourself sometimes? Is that something you’re working on and think could help you play better?
“I don’t think I could be too hard on myself. I have a very high expectation for everything I do. And when I go out and compete, I expect myself to make every play. And when I don’t, it is frustrating for myself. So, to me, it’s something that I have to be able to use that frustration in a different way to make sure that I’m productive when I’m out there.”
Your head coach has backed you every step of the way. There hasn’t been a moment where he hasn’t backed you up. How important is that to you to hear that from him?
“It’s huge when you have a coach that’s going to support you through thick and thin. And I think it’s reciprocal. I support him through everything and he’s a great coach. He’s done a great job with this team and he’s still working as hard as he can to make sure that we’re ready and we’re prepared to play.”
What does it feel like for your name to be mentioned constantly? Locally, nationally, every time you turn something on, you hear your name. What’s that feel like?
“I don’t watch too much TV when it comes to sports or news or things like that. So, I don’t hear it too much. I kind of go into my own zone once I leave the facility.”
Did you even know you were being scrutinized for short answers?
“I did catch wind. A few people let me know.” [Laughter]
A new player conduct policy went down today where one of the key points is that the commissioner is no longer going to be involved in the initial dueling out of punishment. Any thoughts on what the new player conduct policy is or have you guys even been made aware of it yet?
“Just was made aware of it a few minutes ago. Until I really know what it means and how things are going to go, I really can’t say too much on it.”
What’s your analysis of Richard Sherman on the field? What do you see from him as a cornerback that makes him so dangerous?
“He’s fast. He’s long. He does a great job covering guys. So, he makes the windows very small for being able to get the ball into receivers.”
Is he the toughest cornerback for you to face?
“I’d say he’s one of. He does a very good job at what he’s coached to do and it makes it tough on our receivers, makes it tough on quarterbacks.”
Did you care about them eating turkey on your midfield?
“Not something I was necessarily happy about.”
Is the way you understand it that they would have offered you guys turkey? I don’t know what the setup was, but is it that you guys might have had that option?
“I’m assuming so. I’m really not too sure.”
Do you think you can try too hard? Do you think a quarterback can try too hard and how do you fight that?
“I don’t think you can try too hard. I think you can get too focused on one thing or another thing. You have to be able to do everything as a quarterback and that’s not necessarily just taking care of your job, but making sure you’re preparing everyone else to go out and play well and make sure you have them in the right mindset when they step on the field.”
LB NaVorro Bowman, I guess he won’t practice this week, but perhaps next week. Just having him back on the practice field, what could that do for you guys as an emotional lift perhaps?
“He’s one of the big leaders on this team. He’s very good at what he does and when he steps on the field, you know what you’re going to get out of him. So, I think he lifts this team not just defensively, but as a whole.”
At the risk of pushing this relationship too much, but we’ve asked you constantly about what’s hindering the offense and you’ve generally said execution and we haven’t played well and we have to play better. I realize you’re not going to delve into specifics, but are there things that you can point to generally that have held you guys back? So many people expected the offense to be better.
“Yeah. It’s something that it’s a constant work in progress. The biggest thing is execution when it comes down to it. If you have one person miss an assignment here or physically just not making a play on any particular play, whether it’s throwing, catching, blocking, whatever it may be, offensively it won’t be successful. So, it’s something that we just have to tighten those things up.”