Jim Harbaugh today said that Colin Kaepernick would be the first quarterback off the bench when the 49ers begin the exhibition season Friday against the Minnesota Vikings.
The competition to be Alex Smith's backup is one of the few high-profile battles of 49ers training camp. Harbaugh has said that there was a three-way tie among Kaepernick, Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien. All three get about the same amount of practice time in training camp, although Kaepernick usually gets the first chance to operate with the second-team offense.
Harbaugh said that the situation was still fluid and that he hoped the upcoming games would help sort out the depth chart at that position. He noted that Kaepernick hasn't been in a game since handling mop-up duty Dec. 4 vs. St. Louis.
"He's going to get a lot of work, a lot of game work," Harbaugh said. "They all need it. They all are fighting for that job. The competition, as I said, is very close. ... Colin, specifically, needs that work. It's been a long time since he's played in that game action. You kind of liken it to a golfer who does nothing but play the same course over and over and over again. That's kind of what practice can be like for a quarterback."
Harbaugh wouldn't commit to a total snap count for Friday's game, but he said all of the quarterbacks would play a "good amount."
All of the quarterbacks, including Kaepernick, have struggled against the 49ers defense in recent practices. Some of the defensive players have good naturedly poked fun at Kaepernick for his tendency to tuck the ball away and run with it when his first options are covered.
During a four-minute drill Monday, however, Kaepernick had the last laugh. The object of the drill was for the offense to run out the clock in an end-of-game scenario. The offense got a short gain on first down, but running back Anthony Dixon drew the wrath of coaches by running the ball out of bounds and stopping the clock.
A second-down run was foiled by defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie, who stopped the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage. That brought up a crucial third-and-long scenario. Kaepernick rolled right and threw a nice pass to A.J. Jenkins on a come-backer along the sideline for a first down. Jenkins beat fellow rookie Deante Purvis on the play. After that Kaepernick and the offense went into the victory formation.
Kaepernick also had a nice throw down the middle to the Garbage Man (Konrad Reuland) in front of Donte Whitner. Whitner came up slowly after the play and was replaced by Darcel McBath. Both he and fellow starter Dashon Goldson (ankle) were nicked and did not finish practice. Neither injury appeared serious.
-- Matt Barrows