San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wants to ensure mobile quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn’t blatantly targeted Sunday by the Green Bay Packers, so he has gone to the NFL for clarity about when Kaepernick is supposed to be safe before he’s declared a runner.
Kaepernick ran the read option to near perfection on a big stage against Green Bay in January. By league rule, quarterbacks in the scheme aren’t as protected when they leave the pocket if it is clear they are runners.
“You’re hearing a lot of tough talk right now, you’re hearing some intimidating type of talk, the same thing we were hearing a couple years ago,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “It sounds a lot like targeting a specific player. You definitely start to wonder.
“A man will usually tell you his bad intentions if you just listen. You know what’s being said publicly, not what’s being said privately. You hope that their intent isn’t going to be anything that’s not within the rules.”
On Tuesday, Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews told ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” that perhaps the best way to slow read-option quarterbacks like Kaepernick is to hit them.
“One of the things that the referees have told us is that when these quarterbacks carry out the fakes, they lose their right as a quarterback, a pocket-passing quarterback, the protection of a quarterback,” Matthews said in the interview. “So with that, you do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they’re too important to their offense. If that means they pull them out of that type of offense and make them run a traditional, drop-back, pocket-style offense, I think that’s exactly what we’re going for. So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable.”
Kaepernick ran past the Packers in last season’s playoffs, and through them, too. His breakout game in a breakthrough season came in his first career postseason start, less than two months after Harbaugh kept him as the starter even though Alex Smith had returned from a concussion, when he carried the 49ers to a 45-31 divisional-round victory by running for two touchdowns and throwing for two more.
He set a playoff record for quarterbacks in the process with 181 rushing yards in a win that sent San Francisco to its second straight NFC title game.
Kaepernick said he can’t concern himself with the defense’s motivations.
“I’m not worried about that,” he said. “It’s football. You’re going to get hit.”
Matthews insists the Packers will be better prepared come Sunday’s season opener at Candlestick Park, when they try again to slow — or stop — Kaepernick.
“We had an entire offseason to focus on last year’s loss, having time to kind of figure out a way to defend that,” he said. “We obviously like to think we’re better prepared to defend that type of offense and what he brings to the table.”
Harbaugh said he plans to speak to the officials before the game about what the coach calls a “gray area” in the rules. He doesn’t expect to hear back from the league before kickoff.
“Those are the conversations right now,” Harbaugh said. “I haven’t gotten the final clarification on what it’s going to be.”
San Francisco had 579 total yards — 323 on the ground — in the playoff win and scored the third-most points in the franchise’s storied playoff history.
Information from ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and The Associated Press was used in this report.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com