Colin Kaepernick Replaces Blaine Gabbert as 49ers' Starting QB

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2016

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers wamrs up on the sidelines against the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick, who has spent his 2016 season drawing headlines for his social activism, is getting another opportunity to make an impact on the field. 

San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly announced that Kaepernick will start over Blaine Gabbert against the Buffalo Bills in Week 6.

Injury guarantees in Kaepernick's contract were believed to raise concerns about Kaepernick's playing time, and on Oct. 7, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the 49ers were working on a restructured deal with Kaepernick that would alter the language in the deal.

However, the deal has not been signed at this time, and Kelly indicated that Kaepernick's contract was never a topic of conversation between them, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

"It's a football decision. I don't even know where his contract status is," Kelly said, per Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.

Barrows reported that the contract is done and that the only questions remaining are when and if Kaepernick will sign.

Gabbert has gotten off to a miserable start, throwing for 890 yards in five games with five touchdowns and six interceptions and completing just 58 percent of his passes.

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"You're never going to play your best ball looking over your shoulder," Gabbert said, per Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group. "[But] that definitely wasn't the case the first five games."

Earlier this season, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said Gabbert was "no challenge" to play against. "I think Kaepernick gives the team a better chance of winning," Bennett told reporters, "but that's just my opinion."

The 49ers are 1-4 and have not won since they defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the team's season opener, 28-0.

Kaepernick lost a preseason battle with Gabbert for the starting job, thanks in part to an injury suffered in camp. Kelly previously said Kaepernick's health was part of the reason he had yet to consider a change before now, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com:

He's capable to be the backup. But I don't think he's ready to go full-time. He's continuing to work on it. I think he's over [on the practice field working out] right now. And Kap will be the first to tell you, if you guys have been around here before, I think his playing weight has been around 225, and he's not at that right now. So he's going out there and continuing to work, continuing to get better. He had a serious layoff in terms of being able to medical rehab. To get the full Kap for what you need, the potential that he has, he needs to continue to just work on the physical aspect of things.

Kaepernick hasn't started a game since Nov. 1, 2015. He went 2-6 in starts last season under former coach Jim Tomsula before being benched in favor of Gabbert. The former franchise quarterback was later placed on season-ending injured reserve with a left shoulder injury.

Most of the focus for Kaepernick in 2016 has surrounded his social activism, particularly his decision to not stand for the national anthem. He has been outspoken about his belief that people of color are treated unfairly in the United States and said he would continue to kneel until changes are made.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media's Steve Wyche. "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Despite widespread polarization of opinion, Kelly has been supportive of Kaepernick standing up for his beliefs. His lack of playing time has made it less clear how fans view him. Since he's now the starter, the spotlight will shine brighter than ever on Kaepernick.

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