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CBS Sports NFL Insider

With Kaepernick's status elevated, QB could be in for big season

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick is now a bonafide American celebrity, a condition hardly entirely enviable in which people naval-gaze about the cultural connotations of your tattoos, chronicle your every public move and deconstruct your wardrobe in idiotic fashion, say, dare you wear a Miami Dolphins hat.

When you are a Super Bowl quarterback within a half season of becoming an NFL starter, when you play the position in a dynamic manner in which few ever have and begin to grace the covers of magazines, you immediately sacrifice a normalcy you once took for granted. Kaepernick, 25, isn't seeking any of this -- he really just wants to win football games and hang with his buddies in the offseason -- but, in the post Super Bowl haze this is what life has become, and part of adapting to life the past few months has required coming to grips with his newfound fame.

"It's different," Kaepernick said. "It's something that's taken some getting used to, especially when you're just hanging out, having a good time with your friends. Going to the grocery store, going to the mall, I have to game plan what time of day to do it, when I think there will be the least amount of people there. Things like that that I've never thought about it before."

Now, when you are 6-foot-4, 230 pounds and have a fair share of tattoos and your face is hard to miss, going clandestine isn't easy. And at a time when Kaepernick has become the premier football star in the Bay Area, with his jersey immensely popular, disguise is close to impossible.

"It doesn't work too well out here," he said. "We have amazing fans in the Bay Area. They recognize a lot of our player regardless of who it is just to show their support. Outside of the Bay Area, I can get away with it a little more if I put a hat and some shades on and cover up the tattoos."

Kaepernick has received a strong assist from his agents, Scott and Shawn Smith, in juggling all of this, and has also turned to his father for advice.

"That's something my dad has really helped me with," Kaepernick said, "As far as understanding that people aren't trying to take up your time or interrupt what you're doing, they just want to show their support and to me the more I can understand the more I can respect they like what were doing and it's a good thing that they're coming up. The more you can appreciate it and understand where they're coming from, the more you are accepting to it."

Kaepernick said he put his workouts and offseason conditioning above any charity events or awards shows or anything else he dabbled with when he wasn't occupied by OTAs, and that none of that has interfered with his expectations for himself or his team. And lest anyone wonder, it is Super Bowl or bust around here.

"My expectations are to lead this team, to perform well, to perform to the best of my ability," he said. "Anything short of that isn't being successful. For me, I put a lot of hard work and preparation in to make sure I'm ready for the season and to go out and not perform well would be a huge disappointment. I've worked hard to get to where I was last season, and get the opportunity to play well. To come back and not follow that up, that's something I don't even want to think about."

And for all of the talk about NFC defenses adjusting to stop San Francisco's read-option offense, keep in mind Kaepernick can also shred defenses inside the pocket on deep drops and long passes, and this offense is perpetually evolving as well. I wouldn't bank on the 49ers being stifled all that often.

"I'm very excited," the former second-round pick said. "I think a lot of people don't really see the big picture of our offense. I think our offense realizes that, and it's to the point where we want to show people what we're capable of and prove we're not a one-trick horse."

A monster season from Kaepernick would not surprise me in the least.

Observations

I love the hiring of former head coach and defensive coach Eric Mangini to consult for the offense on how to keep the read-option one step ahead of opposing defenses. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Mangini hasn't really interacted with his staff, focused on grasping the 40ers offense. "I did that role one year in Baltimore," Fangio said of being a defensive coach working with the offensive staff, "and they learned a lot having me in the room."

No one around here is masking the fact this needs to be a breakout year for second year receiver AJ Jenkins, who was largely a spectator his rookie year. They aren't overly sentimental here, and if the kid can't show in camp that he can play, the reps and game time will go elsewhere.

The 49ers continue to hold back the reigns on draft pick Marcus Lattimore, focused on 2014 for him as he recovers from shredding his knee at South Carolina last season. But he is running at three-quarters speed and has really come on lately. Everything is positive with him, and look for the 49ers to continue looking to add bodies in the backfield if need be. Frank Gore has been a workhorse and a ridiculously productive player for so long, but history tells us such backs, when they do decline, drop off precipitously. San Francisco wants to be fortified should that be the case and Kendall Hunter is very highly thought of.

Third-year nose tackle Ian Williams is creating a stir, and expect him to push Glenn Dorsey, an offseason acquisition, there.

Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin has only been here a few months, but the outspoken leader was told to be himself, and that he is. He isn't afraid to be vocal. “I feel comfortable speaking up,” he said. If he can gain separation and get open downfield at this stage of his career will be a bigger issue. He expects to play some in the preseason to hone his timing and speed in this offense.

Fangio spoke highly of second-year linebacker Cam Johnson as someone who could perhaps fill Ahmad Brooks' role should Brooks end up facing suspension.

Focus on third-downs with this offense. That will be an area the coaching staff looks to as it measures the growth in 2013. The 49ers often beat teams up on first and second down a year ago, being so physical, but when they fell into third-and-long, tended to sputter, as you would expect. They ranked 23rd in the NFL on third-and-10 conversions last season and want to excel more in those situations where the odds are against them. I'm sure there will be plenty of attention paid to those special situations as camp rolls on.

 
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