Here is a link to my Wednesday column about Colin Kaepernick’s potential new contract. The full text runs below:
SANTA CLARA – On Tuesday, Colin Kaepernick looked like a playing card.
He wore a jet black jersey with a blazing red seven on it. The seven of diamonds. This was during a 49ers offseason practice. You wanted to use him for an inside straight. Draw him as your last card, a closed card and flip Colin over to win the hand. All other 49ers wore red jerseys with white numbers.
Kaepernick is different. He is the most important Niner except for Jim Harbaugh. During one practice last season, Harbaugh determined a defender had come too close to Kaepernick — to the franchise, if you will. After that, Harbaugh mandated the red-on-black jersey so Kaepernick would stand out and work in a violence-free zone. No other 49ers quarterback wears the playing-card jersey. Alex Smith never did.
The Niners brag they are a rough-and-tumble team. They are except for Kaepernick. They don’t dare risk rough and tumble with him.
Mr. Red Seven is so important the 49ers have resumed contract negotiations with him — reportedly resumed negotiations. There was a snag in negotiating after Kaepernick’s snag a while back in Miami, but nothing came of that. Call the Miami snag a false snag.
The contract negotiations reportedly involve at least $18 million a year for however many years. That’s a lot of dough. I would have asked Kaepernick and Harbaugh about it, but they didn’t talk with the media on Tuesday, talking to the media once a week in the casualness of the offseason being so onerous.
The $18 million approaches Aaron Rodgers territory — he is the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and a more accomplished quarterback than Kaepernick.
The Niners can spend whatever they want on Kaepernick. It’s Jed York’s money and it’s not mine. I’m just saying this.
It’s a big gamble to lock up Kaepernick at $18 million for several years when he has proved so little. He has not won a Super Bowl, but that 18 million number feels like a Super Bowl winning payoff. And, yes, I know Jay Cutler makes that much and he never won a Super Bowl. Just because the Bears are careless with their dough doesn’t mean the Niners have to be careless, too.
Kaepernick has not been selected to play in the Pro Bowl. Kaepernick went backward last year, which means his play declined. Kaepernick is not an especially good pocket passer. Kaepernick ended last season the same way he ended the previous season — screwing up in the red zone, failing to win.
Kaepernick almost never looks one way and throws the other — he continued this curious trend at Tuesday’s practice against zero pass rush. Kaepernick has played only 29 games including the postseason. Is it wise to commit your future to a man that inexperienced, to a man who has not taken you where you want to go?
Me, I’d make him play out this season, his final season under the present contract. I’d see what he brings. If he’s great and if he wins the Super Bowl, pay him a fortune. But make him earn it. Don’t award it to him on faith.
The Giants, by the way, are doing precisely that with Pablo Sandoval. There’s no law against being prudent.
Kaepernick had a so-so practice on Tuesday, threw a few TD passes but missed open receivers. He overthrew guys. He threw one pass so low the receiver had to sit down on the grass to grab it — he didn’t grab it.
I expect the 49ers to cave and redo Kaepernick’s contract for about $18 million a year. If he gets that money, Kaepernick becomes the face of the franchise. There is a responsibility in being the face of the franchise. A man in that position needs to act a certain way.
He needs to be dignified. He needs to look you in the eye. He needs to speak well. He needs to answer in complete sentences. He needs to avoid sentence fragments. He needs to be polite. He needs to understand the other guy’s point of view. He needs to care about it. He needs to be grown up.
Last season, Kaepernick would address the media on Wednesdays in the locker room in Santa Clara. The 49ers had set up an interview tent including a stage, a microphone and chairs for the media — everything to make the interaction professional. Kaepernick did not care to use that facility.
He would make the media wait in the locker room and then he would suddenly appear. He would begin to walk. He made the media trail after him. He would pretend to stop but then he would commence walking again. He enjoyed this. He did this act on a weekly basis.
You may not care about the media, but what Kaepernick did was mean. Some media members lugged heavy cameras. Kaepernick created a burden for them. Many were older than he is. He was disrespectful to them for no good reason. It never is right to be disrespectful.
He finally would stop near another player’s locker and talk mostly in monosyllables. That is his style although he is intelligent and knows how to talk.
One former 49er told me he’d be ticked off if Kaepernick brought the media to his locker. “I’d tell him, ‘Go to your own locker,’” the former Niner said.
I was not in Santa Clara when Kaepernick met the media last Thursday. I am told he spoke to reporters near the field. I am told the session was polite and orderly. I am told he answered at length and thoughtfully, did everything he was supposed to do. I applaud that. I can’t help thinking he could have done that last season and not been a doofus.
I hope this laudatory behavior continues. I hope he earns the big money he may get and appreciates it. And I hope he learns this basic truth about life.
It’s OK to be a playing card at practice. But other things trump that.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.