Criticism Aside, Kaepernick is Back to Work

Colin Kaepernick (Getty Images)

There's been no shortage of chatter surrounding 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick this week after Sunday's poor performance against the Panthers in the 10-9 loss. But Kaepernick has ignored his critics as he looks to beat the Saints Sunday in a pivotal game with playoff implications.

Colin Kaepernick has his own critique for former quarterback Trent Dilfer after the analyst questioned the ability of San Francisco's QB to adjust in the passing game: Unless you're with the 49ers day-to-day, watch what you say.

When told that Dilfer had called out Kaepernick's skill to adapt when his first read isn't there following a 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Kaepernick reminded everyone Wednesday that he hasn't changed from the player who led San Francisco back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years last season in his first opportunity as an NFL starter.

"Well, I think you should ask him if he knows what my progression is first before he says that," Kaepernick said Wednesday.

He pointed out that Dilfer is not at team headquarters regularly — or working alongside Kaepernick like his teammates do — nor does he know what the quarterback's progression is supposed to be for a given game plan or specific sequence.

"I didn't hear what he had to say, but he's not in the building with us so what he's saying really doesn't affect me at all," Kaepernick said. "I'm worried about what this team thinks and what I'm doing in here with my teammates."

Kaepernick has plenty of support from within as he nears the one-year mark of his first NFL start in a commanding 32-7 victory against the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football" on Nov. 19, 2012, while playing in place of the injured Alex Smith.

"It's been a very good, steady progression for him," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We don't think anything's wrong with Colin. We feel like his progression's been very good. He's played winning football for us and that's what we expect."

The 49ers certainly hope tight end Vernon Davis can play Sunday after sustaining a concussion — his second in 10 months — against the Panthers. Without him for the second half, San Francisco's passing game became non-existent as the Niners wound up with 46 total yards passing and 151 in all. Running back Frank Gore had 82 of those yards on 16 carries.

Gore stands by Kaepernick and knows he will grow from the tough losses.

"He's doing well. Every year is going to get tougher," Gore said. "As long as he keeps standing and manning up and going out there and trying to get this team to our goal, that's all we want from him. Kaepernick's doing a great job."

That is the perception of New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees from afar.

"We all know what he's capable of, he's a dual threat, he can make plays with his legs and his arm," Brees said. "He's got the ability to be a big-time player."

Yet opposing defenses are doing more to take Kaepernick out of his game, to keep him from scrambling loose and dominating out of the read option.

After a five-game winning streak in which the 49ers scored at least 31 points in each victory, all of that progress came crashing down against Carolina and its swarming defense. Kaepernick had his worst professional performance yet — 11 of 22 for 91 yards with an interception and six sacks for a 42.0 passer rating.

"You're always looking to get back on the field whether you win or lose," Kaepernick said. "I won't say angry is the word, but we need to get out and we need to play better."

Positioning in the NFC West and playoffs is on the line, and the 49ers are in jeopardy of losing their two-year hold on the division to the rival Seahawks.

San Francisco waived wide receiver Kyle Williams and cornerback Perrish Cox on Tuesday while activating linebacker Nick Moody. That still leaves an open roster spot to be filled before Sunday, yet Harbaugh wouldn't say whether that could be for Michael Crabtree's return and season debut. He has been sidelined since tearing his right Achilles tendon in May and undergoing surgery.

Notes: Crabtree wasn't practicing during the open portion of Wednesday's workout. ... DT Ray McDonald is wearing a walking boot on his left foot for a high ankle sprain. He doesn't expect to play against the Saints. ... Injured NT Ian Williams, lost to a season-ending left ankle injury against the Seahawks on Sept. 15, will be on crutches for two or three more weeks then use a walking boot for a time before pins are removed from the ankle. ... Williams was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs one day after the 49ers released him, reuniting him with Alex Smith.

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