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49ers Teammates, Coaches See Growth in Colin Kaepernick

ORLANDO, Fla. – The win-loss record might not reflect it, but the statistics certainly add merit to the conversation.

Has Colin Kaepernick taken a step forward in his career?

Coaches and teammates of the quarterback believe he's made strides through six starts in his sixth season with the San Francisco 49ers.

Kaepernick was praised by his peers as the team began its week of training at the University of Central Florida prior to a Week 13 road game against the Chicago Bears.

"He's made a progression from game to game, where you can see improvement from him, which is what you're looking for," coach Chip Kelly said during his Monday conference call.

"It's in all facets," Kelly continued. "It's in everything: His pocket presence, his accuracy, his understanding of protections. All that stuff has improved from the Buffalo (Bills) game."

Teammates echoed the sentiment on Tuesday.

"Kap's done awesome," Torrey Smith said after the first practice at UCF. "He's gotten better each and every week. He's playing like the way you kind of expect him to play. There's things that he can do that's just God-given that a lot of people simply can't do."

Sunday's road loss to the Miami Dolphins, San Francico's franchise-record 10th in a row, saw Kaepernick beco­­me one of five quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for three touchdown passes and rush for more than 100 yards in a single game. Kaepernick threw or 286 yards and added 113 yards on the ground in a 31-24 losing effort.

"I feel like I'm trying to continually get better," the 49ers quarterback said. "There've been games that we've played well but we haven't won and ultimately that's why we play, is to win. So for me, there's opportunities to improve, opportunities to get better and to have more yards, more points on the board, and I think that's when we'll really start thriving."

Despite trailing 31-14 in the second half, Kaepernick's play-making ability got the 49ers within seven points as he drove the offense all the way down to the 2-yard line before he was tackled short of the goal line as time expired.

Kaepernick said his belief in himself has been "steadfast." Kaepernick's confidence didn't waiver despite a demotion in 2015, a move to Injured Reserve and a trio of offseason surgeries that followed.

"I know what I'm capable of," Kaepernick said. "I know what my teammates are capable of, and I believe in that and ultimately that's what our focus has to be. That's where our mindset has to be in order for us to continue to keep going and to pull out a win."

The 49ers signal-caller's increased workload as a rusher has been one of the chief developments in his first season playing for Kelly.

Kaepernick has rushed 46 times for 373 rushing yards with one touchdown in six starts this season. He's averaging 62.2 yards rushing per game in his six starts, which is 22.3 yards above his career average. Kaepernick said San Francisco's frequent use of three-receiver sets and zone-read running plays have opened up even wider rushing lanes.

"I think he's doing a good job of taking advantage of those opportunities," offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said of Kaepernick's rushing numbers. "I think he's throwing it well, he's doing some good things and when the opportunity presents itself, he uses his legs. That helps tremendously."

As a passer, Kaepernick has thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptions in his past four outings.

Fourth-year tight end Garrett Celek, who leads the team with four touchdown receptions and 17.4 yards per reception, applauded Kaepernick's pocket patience and decision-making.

"You look at him the last three weeks and the guy's putting up great numbers," the 49ers tight end said. "(He's) becoming more comfortable each week. With the consistency that we're having, we're building it on offense and it's a testament to him."

Kaepernick's restructured contract has a player option for him to return to the 49ers in 2017. But for now, Kaepernick's not interested in discussing long-term topics.

"I'm focused on Chicago this week," he said.

The Bears matchup brings on a familiar opponent: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, a former 49ers defensive coordinator for four seasons (2011-14).

Kaepernick said he's well-versed in the scheme he'll face on Sunday, but personnel will certainly be different from what he practiced against in previous offseason practices.

On Sunday, the 49ers will have the opportunity to top Fangio and the Bears for the second straight season. This time around, it'll be Kaepernick who gets the start and an opportunity to snap San Francisco's 10-game slide. "I think ultimately it's going to be our play that determines that," he said. "We're continually getting closer and closer to wins. We have to get over that hump now. We have to be able to cut out the turnovers, the penalties, the mistakes that are killing us and put points on the board in those situations instead of shooting ourselves in the foot."

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