SANTA CLARA (CBS SF & AP) — Colin Kaepernick will start at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers this week against the Buffalo Bills.
Coach Chip Kelly announced the decision Tuesday to bench Blaine Gabbert and give back the job Kaepernick lost midway through last season. Kaepernick has only played briefly in the opener but has generated attention with his refusal to stand for the national anthem.
“We’re going to make a move at quarterback and we’re going to start [QB] Colin [Kaepernick] this week,” Kelly told reporters. “Give him an opportunity to run with the ones. I believe you’ve got to do it at the beginning of the week just because of how reps are distributed. Our ones get, obviously, more reps than our twos during the week.”
Kelly said the move had nothing to do with a restructuring of Kaepernick’s contract. The new pact reportedly would void the final four years of Kaepernick’s current pact and get rid of any injury guarantees for the team. Under the revised deal, Kaepernick could be a free agent in 2017.
“I don’t deal with contracts,” Kelly told reporters. “It’s got nothing to do with his contract.”
Gabbert has struggled this season for San Francisco (1-4). He is last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.9) and has the second-worst passer rating (69.6) in the league.
“It’s not Blaine’s fault,” said Kelly. “I think as group, offensively we need to be better in a lot of ways. So we’re going to see what we can do and make a move here. It’s really one of the only maneuvers we can make based on our depth.”
Kelly said he has discussed the change with both players.
“They were fine,” he told reporters. “They are both professional. They both understand. It’s obviously the conversation with Kap is different than the conversation with Blaine, but it is what it is and we’ve got to make those decisions and sometimes you’ve got to make the tough decision.”
For his part, Kaepernick said he was excited to be back in the starting lineup.
“(Kelly) told me I was up this week,” he said. “(I’m) excited about it. Ready to go. Hoping I can bring more to this team and try to get us a win this Sunday.”
Kelly said Kaepernick’s ongoing protest had no bearing on his decision.
After leading the Niners to the Super Bowl following the 2012 season and the NFC title game the following year, Kaepernick has struggled. He lost his job to Gabbert midway through last season and then had three operations that limited his work in the offseason.
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