Published August 27, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Jim Harbaugh recently went back to reread Colin Kaepernick's goal sheet from 2012.
San Francisco's third-year quarterback took over the starting job last November and accomplished all but one thing on that list.
"Everything except part of No. 3," he said.
Yes, winning the Super Bowl.
Harbaugh, the former 15-year NFL quarterback, and Kaepernick have come a long way together in such a short time. They are beginning to sound like the same person.
The one thing on their minds, and everybody else's with the NFC champion Niners, is bringing home the franchise's sixth Lombardi Trophy after coming so close in a 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens — and Harbaugh's big brother, John — back in February.
"Just for fun, I went back and looked at his goals from last year and it was darn near verbatim what he achieved," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick. "There's something special there, in terms of what drives him. He lives in, I think, one of those worlds where he's motivated for success and for achievement. Not satisfied, no matter how good it is, and I think there's people that come along like that. I relate to that."
Five things to look for as the 49ers try for a third straight division crown:
PROTECTING KAEPERNICK: A surprise no more. Kaepernick now adorns magazine covers — not just in sports — has a top-selling jersey and is a rock star in the Bay Area and beyond.
"Great experiences," he said. "Had a lot of fun with them, but we're focused on football now."
Everybody will be looking to take him down, putting more pressure on an accomplished, much-improved offensive line.
The speedy, strong-armed Kaepernick was 7-3 as a starter last season with 1,814 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. He rushed for a postseason record 181 yards with a 56-yard touchdown in the divisional playoffs against Green Bay, longest in franchise history by a quarterback.
"I think if you're wearing an opposing jersey you're a target," he said.
DAWSON'S LEG: As soon as he joined the 49ers this offseason, Phil Dawson headed straight for Candlestick Park to get acclimated with the unpredictable conditions and wind.
Dawson has been reconnected with his former Browns special teams coach, Brad Seely, with the hopes of bringing back a top-notch kicking game to San Francisco after David Akers' struggles in 2012.
The 38-year-old Dawson converted 29 for 31 field goals last season in his 14th year with the Browns, making all 13 from 40 yards or beyond, including 7 for 7 from 50-plus.
Dawson already hit two 55-yard field goals in an exhibition win at Kansas City.
"Yeah, that and his whole body of work through his career, and he's been a consistent high 80s in terms of percentage making field goals," Harbaugh said. "And he looks very, very good all through camp. Coach Seely feels he's the same guy that he coached in Cleveland. So, feel really good about that."
THE WIDEOUTS: Kaepernick begins his first full season as starter helped by the addition of Anquan Boldin, but without top 2012 target Michael Crabtree, expected to be sidelined until at least November (torn right Achilles tendon).
Kaepernick, Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis hope their timing is spot-on from Week 1.
In addition to Crabtree's absence, Mario Manningham begins the season on the PUP list as he works back from knee surgery that shortened his year last December. He must sit out the initial six games.
"We're definitely going to miss Crabtree until he gets back, but Anquan is that piece that we really needed to be in there for him," hard-hitting safety Donte Whitner said. "Vernon is a versatile guy, you see him all over the place. You don't see too many people who can run with him back there."
SAFETY NET: First-round draft pick Eric Reid is already showing his athleticism and playmaking ability that should make him a nice complement to Whitner following the departure of Dashon Goldson.
Still, Reid is making adjustments as he goes.
"We love the big hit and coach it, and try and get it at any time we can get it," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "He's just got to be smarter there. He's got to know not to hit after the whistle. He's got to know not to hit a guy in the head, a receiver, defenseless receiver. So, we're going to be as aggressive as we can and as physical as we can within the rules."
RETURNING LBS: A top linebacking group hopes to be even better this season. Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks had a good thing going last year, and plan to build on that in San Francisco's swarming, menacing defense.
Both Brooks and Smith ended last season with ailing shoulders and will aim to stay healthy for the entire year.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org