SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Coach Chip Kelly is putting Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert on equal footing as they compete for the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback job.
Both players received the same number of practice reps through the first three days of training camp. Kelly said he will use preseason games to decide the starter.
''They're not going to get hit in any of our training sessions and there's no quarterback in the NFL or even college that probably gets hit in practice,'' Kelly said.
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''So, really the big determination with those guys will be the preseason games are going to be huge for those guys.''
Gabbert replaced Kaepernick nine games into last season after the 49ers went 2-6 in Kaepernick's starts under former coach Jim Tomsula. They finished 3-5 with Gabbert starting, who posted a career-best 86.2 passer rating after a turbulent three-year tenure in Jacksonville led to a trade to San Francisco in 2014.
Kaepernick missed the majority of the offseason program while recovering from three surgeries. He was placed on injured reserve in November to have surgery on his left shoulder. After the season, he had procedures on his throwing hand and left knee.
While recovering, Kaepernick during practice stood yards behind offensive drills and took mental notes. That helped him transition to Kelly's up-tempo offense before being cleared by team doctors to participate in training camp this week.
''It felt great just to be back on the field to start with, and then to get into the offense and really sink my teeth into and get comfortable with it,'' Kaepernick said. ''It felt good with everything I was doing.''
Gabbert, who was selected 26 spots ahead of Kaepernick in the 2011 draft, faces free agency next spring and is looking to improve on last season to revitalize his career after the Jaguars went 5-22 in his starts.
As a 22-year-old rookie, Gabbert replaced veteran David Gerrard in the starting lineup.
''This isn't my first quarterback competition I've ever been in and definitely won't be the last,'' Gabbert said. ''So when you're out there, you've just got to make the most out of your opportunities and go out there and have fun.''
While Gabbert and Kaepernick are competing for the starting job, they're also trying to learn Kelly's fast-paced offense. His no-huddle attack led to the Eagles ranking last in time of possession in Kelly's three seasons, which tests players physically and mentally.
''When you're physically tired, you've still got to think,'' Gabbert said. ''That's something you've got to work hard at because when your body starts going, start breathing hard, you've still got to process the information, the play call coming into your headset, know what your read is, whether it's a run game or pass game being able to kind of function when you're tired.''
Kaepernick spent his time off before training camp trying to regain weight after the surgeries impacted his weight lifting regimen.
''Yeah, (I'm) definitely putting a lot of weight back on,'' Kaepernick said. ''I don't look like my high school self anymore. I feel like I look more like an adult now.''
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