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September 30, 2012
Tebow 2.0? Nah, 49ers Kaepernick wants to be himself

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Colin Kaepernick scored on a 78-yard touchdown run during the 49ers exhibition season opener Aug. 10, and Jets coach Rex Ryan was watching.

That week Ryan revealed to the New York media that the the Jets were interested in Kaepernick for his running ability during the 2011 draft but that the 49ers got him -- with the 36th overall pick -- before the Jets could pounce.

"You're seeing these guys and it's hard to defend some of that stuff," Ryan said at the time. "When you have the ability to throw as well as run, it makes it tough."

Ryan's observation was amplified Sunday after Kaepernick made only a cameo appearance but managed to pick up 50 yards on five carries, including a seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. That total includes two knee-downs for minus-4 yards at the end of the game.

Kaepernick would have had two rushing scores on the afternoon, but he wisely slid down at the Jets 3-yard line on a break-away run with less than two minutes to play. "That's one less kickoff we have to cover, one less time we have to go out on defense," Kaepernick said of the slide. "We can end the game with no more collisions or chance of injury."

Kaepernick, the only quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 or more yards in three straight seasons, also outplayed the more celebrated Wildcat quarterback in the stadium Sunday, Tim Tebow. Tebow's best highlights were a couple of blocks on blitz pickups. Otherwise, he ran twice for zero yards and had one pass for nine yards.

"I guess if you want to put it that way," Kaepernick said of Tebow comparisons. "I want to be me. That's all I'm worried about. I want to go out there and play like myself."

Kaepernick's one pass attempt was the longest of the year for the 49ers -- to Randy Moss. It travelled more than 50 yards and fell incomplete in the end zone. It was the only throw in Moss' direction in the game. Kaepernick also lined up at wideout Sunday and forced the Jets to burn a timeout. They didn't have anyone covering him on the play.

Larry Grant, who blocked 12 punts as a junior college player at San Francisco City College, had another one in the fourth quarter Sunday. Grant (Foothill High) came through the left side of the Jets line and smothered Robert Malone's punt attempt, and the 49ers recovered the ball on the New York 4-yard line.

Three plays later, Kendall Hunter plowed into the end zone from a yard away, the final score in the 49ers' 34-0 win. It was the 49ers first blocked punt since Dominique Ziegler did it in a loss to the Falcons on Oct. 10, 2010.

Grant credited special teams coach Brad Seely with the play. Grant had been blocking against his opponent throughout the game, and Seely suspected the Jets player would expect that again. Instead, he told Grant to go after the ball. "I just saw it open up and took a shot," said Grant, who also blocked three punts at Ohio State.

Et cetera -- Ted Ginn returned to the lineup after missing the first three games with a sore ankle. He handled punt returns -- four for 40 yards -- while Kyle Williams ran the opening kickoff back 25 yards. It was the only Jets kickoff of the game.

* The 49ers suffered no major injuries. Cornerback Carlos Rogers had X-rays on the middle finger of his right hand but it was only jammed, he said.

* With Isaac Sopoaga (knee, ankle) out for the game, Ricky Jean Francois started at nose tackle. His backup, Ian Williams, played for the first time this season as did undrafted rookie tight end Garrett Celek. He was the only 49ers rookie active for the game.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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