San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly holds a football on the field at Levi Stadium Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. Ben Margot The Associated Press
San Francisco 49ers coach Chip Kelly holds a football on the field at Levi Stadium Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. Ben Margot The Associated Press

49ers with Matt Barrows

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San Francisco 49ers

Chip Kelly on Kaepernick: ‘Our job is acquiring talent, not getting rid of talent’

By Matt Barrows

mbarrows@sacbee.com

February 25, 2016 09:44 AM

INDIANAPOLIS -- Chip Kelly recently returned from a six-day trip to visit the troops in places like Afghanistan, Djibouti and Italy. He came across a lot of 49ers fans in the military, and they all seemed to have the same question.

"Yeah, it was interesting," Kelly said. "They all want to know about Kap."

Kelly on Thursday said he gave them the same response he gives anyone who asks about quarterback Colin Kaepernick: He looks forward to seeing him when the 49ers begin their offseason program April 4.

That's three days after a roster deadline at which time Kaepernick's $11.9 million base salary for 2016 becomes guaranteed.

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But like general manager Trent Baalke on Wednesday, Kelly seemed unconcerned about the deadline and, like Baalke, insisted that Kaepernick was eager to begin the 2016 season in earnest in April.

"He's seemed excited every time I've talked to him," Kelly told the team’s beatwriters in an hour-long session. " … I've also learned to not believe everything that's on the Internet."

That was in reference to reports that Kaepernick is not happy with the 49ers. He was benched after eight games, then had three surgeries, all of them diagnosed and performed by private surgeons in Vail, Colorado.

That's also where Kaepernick has been rehabilitating from the procedures to his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee. He’s expected to be close to fully recovered from all three when the team's offseason program begins.

Meanwhile, his agents are scheduled to meet today with 49ers officials, including chief contract negotiator Paraag Marathe and personnel executive Tom Gamble. It's not know what will be discussed.

Kelly met with Kaepernick in person at the team facility last month and said he's had a few phone calls as well. The conversations mostly have centered on the quarterback's rehabilitation, but Kelly never sensed Kaepernick is unhappy with the 49ers.

"He wants to be here,” Kelly said. “He's never expressed to me that he didn't want to be here. He expressed to me that he's excited about getting healthy and getting going. And we're excited about him getting healthy and getting going."

As with every player on the team, Kelly is resisting making personnel-related judgments on his quarterbacks until he sees them in the 49ers' system. The 49ers will have a minicamp in late April he said, then the usual allotment of OTA sessions and minicamps until mid June.

"You've got to see them in general," he said. "I think one of the misconceptions is how somebody can evaluate a tape and say, 'This guy made the wrong decision.' You don't know what the play call was."

Still, he said he's seen enough of Kaepernick to know he is worth keeping around.

Kelly seemed reserved in his responses when asked about Kaepernick at his introductory press conference last month. He seemed to bring up Blaine Gabbert's name whenever he was asked about Kaepernick, and the contrast with Jim Harbaugh's gushing support of Alex Smith when he first became coach in 2011 was noted.

On Thursday, however, Kelly was more effusive in his praise.

"Kap's really good," he said at one point. "I mean, he had the ball on the 5-yard line (intending on) taking the team in to win a Super Bowl. You can just look at the tape to see how talented he is. You know, our job is acquiring talent, not getting rid of talent."

He said the quarterback's downturn last year can be explained by several things, including a coaching change and the injuries for which he is now recovering. .

"There's a reason he was on IR," Kelly said. "I mean, there was something wrong with him."

Kaepernick is one of several injured players who may not be able to fully take part in the offseason program when it begins April 4. But Kelly said he expects the quarterback to be on hand.

“I think there's talent on the roster, and we're excited as a coaching staff to get working with them," he said. "And they're all going to be there … we hope."

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.