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Blaine Gabbert Eager to Prove Himself in First Start for San Francisco 49ers

Blaine Gabbert received the news on Monday.

The 26-year-old signal-caller will make his first start for the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

But you already knew that by now.

What you don't know is how the fifth-year pro reacted to being given the opportunity. Gabbert shed light on those feelings when speaking to the press on Wednesday.

"It's always kind of a funny deal in the NFL when you hear your number called because you never know when it's going to (happen)," said Gabbert, who made 27 starts with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2011-13. "And that's kind of why you always got to stick to your routine and just always be prepared because, like they always say, you're one play away from playing and you're one play away from not playing."

Take a look at some of the top photos of 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert from the 2015 season.

Gabbert has been a backup for the nearly the past three seasons, one with the Jaguars and the past 24 games with the 49ers. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound passer said he took a lot away from his benching in Jacksonville.

"It's just a learning experience because all quarterbacks want to have long careers and there's going to be ups and downs (and) bumps in the road," Gabbert said. "But at the same time, you just have to keep pushing forward because you never know when your opportunity is going to be."

With his shot in San Francisco now public knowledge, Gabbert was complimentary when speaking about the man he replaces, Colin Kaepernick.

"Colin's been great," Gabbert said. "I wouldn't expect him to be any other way. We have a great quarterback room. The dynamic between us is wonderful and it's going to continue to be that way."

Jim Tomsula, however, did not commit to Gabbert as a season-long starter for the 49ers. That means the first-team quarterback's preparation work and performance against the Falcons will go a long way in determining his staying power in the starting lineup.

Gabbert, meanwhile, pointed to being battle-tested in the NFL when asked how prepared he is to handle the starting duites. On non-playoff teams in Jacksonville, Gabbert threw for 4,357 yards with 22 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in 27 starts.

"When I got in the league as a 21-year-old, you haven't seen really anything," he said. "And going into my fifth year, just the experiences that I've had preparing for games, playing in games, starting games, being a back up quarterback. It's valuable over time to have those repetitions in practice and on the game field."

Gabbert showcased his growth in San Francisco's offense this preseason by completing 23 of 28 pass attempts for 203 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Gabbert called the four exhbition appearances "extremely important" to his "journey" as a quarterback. He said he also maximized his first-team practice reps this season.

"The way I approach practice was, I took the scout team as my opportunity to get reps," Gabbert said. "When we were doing the scout-team huddles, I would call our terminology, our protections. That's how most backups quarterbacks get their work throughout the week because the starters do need the reps versus the looks you're going to get that week in the game. So the last eight weeks, throughout training camp, those scout-team reps have been crucial."

The next stop on Gabbert's NFL tour is Sunday at Levi's® Stadium against a 6-2 Falcons squad, which has recorded the 10th-most takeaways in the NFL this season with eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

So how will Gabbert handle the pressure of being the guy for the 49ers offense?

"My mindset is just go out there and have fun," he said. "I learned as a rookie how to prepare from (New Orleans Saints QB) Luke McCown. When you get your number called on a week like this, you just got to stick to your routine. Stick to the same way you prepare week in and week out."

And as for using Sunday's game to audition for a long-term role, Gabbert said he isn't looking that far ahead.

"I'm just taking it as a chance to go out there and just prove to this team what I can do," he said. "It's a great opportunity for me to go out there and play against a good Atlanta football team and, like I said, I'm just going to go out there and enjoy this. It's fun to play ball again, especially in the regular season, and we just got to get something going on offense."

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