One of the storylines during the NFL offseason has been how defenses -- like that of the 49ers' Week 1 opponent, Green Bay -- will adjust to the proliferation of read-option quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick. And one of the possible solutions is to hit the quarterback whether he keeps the football or not.
That's the tactic the Ravens took in the Super Bowl. Whether it was effective or not is a bit fuzzy. Sure, the Ravens won the game. But the 49ers racked up 468 yards of offense while Kaepernick threw for 302 yards and ran for another 62 yards.
Kaepernick today didn't seem all that concerned about being roughed up this season. If defenses use that as a strategy, he said, the 49ers offense will adjust. "It's a chess match," he said.
Despite all the times he exited the pocket last year, Kaepernick mostly avoided big hits. The most violent jolt he's ever absorbed? It was delivered by then-Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon when Kaepernick was a sophomore at Nevada.
"I was on the run," he said. "He got a good shot on my shoulders and head. Best lick I've taken." Did he return to the game? "Knock on wood, I haven't been knocked out yet," Kaepernick said with a smile.
Kaepernick and the Wolfpack lost that game 69-17. Weatherspoon is now with the Falcons. So Kaepernick got his revenge in the NFC Championship game and will get another attempt when the Falcons visit Dec. 23.
Justin Smith hasn't worn thigh pads in more than a decade. But he and the rest of the 49ers -- indeed, all of the NFL -- will have to don the full compliment of pads this season per a new league rule. "I think it's swung too far, but that's the way it is," said Smith, a 13-year veteran, of the safety precaution. "The rule's the rule, you go with it. If you want to change the rule, get in a position where you can change the rule. But I'm not in that position."
Jim Harbaugh today said that veterans will have the option of easing into the new rule this summer. He said that first-year players will have to wear thigh and other pads during padded practices. Veterans will have the option of not wearing those pads, though the coaching staff recommends that they start getting used to them as soon as possible.
Harbaugh likened it to when the NHL began requiring all incoming players to wear helmets. Some of the veterans, he noted, continued to go helmet-less. "There was a time when not even the goalies wore helmets," he said.
Michael Crabtree was seen heading to the weight room shortly before noon today. Crabtree, who had surgery May 22 on a torn right Achilles' tendon, was walking without a limp but had a black, plastic brace on the back of his foot. He is expected back no earlier than late November.
-- Matt Barrows