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49ers impressed by Kaepernick’s improvement

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers heard all about quarterback Colin Kaepernick working on his change-up in the offseason.

Now that they’ve been able to see him throw live at training camp, virtually everyone is in agreement: It’s a hit.

“There’s no one that works harder than Kap,” said newcomer wide receiver Torrey Smith, who hopes to be Kaepernick’s most popular target on deep balls this season. “He wants to be great, and he’s putting the work in. It’s on us to make sure it all pays off.”

Veteran running back Reggie Bush, imported to be a pass-catching complement to new starter Carlos Hyde, was immediately impressed.

So were several 49ers defenders, who in the past basically were concerned with two things when it came to Kaepernick: chasing him down in the open field and not breaking any fingers trying to deflect his fastballs from intended targets.

“He’s throwing with a little more touch,” said strong safety Eric Reid. “Everybody knows he has a rocket. He can get it into tight windows. But he’s making the touch throws now.”

One interested — albeit biased — observer has been former NFL Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner, who tutored Kaepernick on some of the finer arts of quarterbacking in the offseason.

His initial impressions of his student in action? All A’s.

“He’s trying to build off where he was, which was already a really good quarterback, and become a great quarterback,” Warner said. “And that next step is (being) able to make some of those things happen come Sunday afternoon, where you can be a really great athlete but you can also be a really good thrower as well.

“You’re starting to see him beginning to understand playing the quarterback position a little more.”

–The competition for starting spots on the offensive line has begun. A surprise among the early leaders is Marcus Martin.

Martin, who started eight games as a rookie last season, was expected to battle Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney for the starting spot at center.

But things changed in a hurry.

One of the first things new coach Jim Tomsula did at camp was announce that Alex Boone, last year’s starter at right guard, would be moved to left guard this season, filling the big void created by the loss of free agent Mike Iupati.

In turn, Martin was moved from center to right guard, and plays between Looney and new right tackle Erik Pears with the first unit — so far.

Kilgore is expected to challenge Looney for the starting center position once he’s cleared to play. He’s still rehabbing a broken leg suffered last season.

Brandon Thomas and Andrew Tiller remain in the mix at the guard position, and Dillon Farrell provides additional depth at center.

–One expected competition has been no competition at all.

Rookie punter Bradley Pinion has been booming kickoffs through the end zone at such a consistent rate, he is a shoo-in to replace veteran Phil Dawson, who in turn will concentrate on field goals.

–The 49ers had no significant injuries on their first weekend of workouts, in part because several players who weren’t 100 percent were held out of practice.

That list included Kilgore, defensive end Darnell Dockett (recovering from torn ACL), and inside linebackers Michael Wilhoite (strained quad) and Nick Bellore (illness).

–Saying “we’re not going to put them at risk,” Tomsula pulled his players off the Levi’s Stadium field on Monday because of damage done to the turf during the club’s weekend workouts.

The practice was held at nearby fields.

Tomsula said the decision on when to move back onto the Levi’s Stadium field, where the first eight practices had been scheduled, would be made on a day-to-day basis.

“We reserve our right to make decisions as we need to,” he insisted.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “If the first digit is a 1, we’re not looking for that.” — 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, saying an emphasis is being put on snapping the ball with the play clock in the 20s.


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