"When I saw him yesterday, I didn’t even know that it was Colin," tight end Vernon Davis said Friday. "No seriously, he was working on his drop back. I was like ‘Who is that?’"
Kaepernick spent most of the offseason working out in Phoenix, Ariz. with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Kurt Warner and position coach Dennis Giles, presumably to improve his fundamentals and ability to read defenses.
As many of 60 49ers, including Davis, Kaepernick and safety Antoine Bethea, are back at the team's Santa Clara headquarters participating in the team's voluntary workouts that began this week. Coaches are limited to working with players in the classroom only, so new head coach Jim Tomsula has yet to see Kaepernick's new-look game in the flesh.
"This is a guy that went out and busted his tail. He took 'good' and made it better. That’s what he did," Tomsula said.
San Francisco's offense finished 25th in the NFL in scoring last season, averaging 19.1 points per game, five points fewer than former coach Jim Harbaugh's teams of the previous three years.
While Kaepernick posted career highs in yardage and completion percentage in 2014, his 10 interceptions were the most since becoming starter. His 6.9-yard average per attempt was down drastically from 2012, when he averaged 8.6 en route to leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl.
"I feel like there’s been quite a bit of change," Kaepernick said. "Obviously, noticeable. Vernon said something to me right away when we started throwing. I just wanted to do everything I can to make sure I’m getting better and doing my part to help this team win.
"To me, you have to be able to change and adapt to be the best player you can be."
Davis is participating in the team's offseason program after skipping both voluntary and mandatory sessions last offseason in hopes of getting a new contract. But a new deal was never struck, and Davis showed up to the start of training camp on time before having one of the worst seasons of his nine-year career. The upcoming season is the last of the 31-year-old's five-year, $36.75 contract.
Dealing with back and ankle injuries at various points of the regular season, Davis notched just 26 catches for 245 yards with two touchdowns, after tying a career best with 13 touchdowns the previous year.
"I’m here this year because I want to get better. I want to win," Davis said. "I want to develop some chemistry with my teammates and get to know guys. There’s a lot of new guys here. And you just never know when this game is over for you."
Kaepernick declined to elaborate on exactly what physical changes he made to his game, but did mention much of the work he did in Phoenix was about his mental approach.
"When we were on the field, we were still talking like we were in the classroom," Kaepernick said. "It’s constant mental work. We weren’t just out there throwing to throw."