SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Colin Kaepernick has learned a thing or two from Peyton Manning.
He just refuses to say what or offer any specifics. The mystery man under center for the San Francisco 49ers will play opposite Manning when the quarterbacks’ teams meet in their exhibition opener tonight at Candlestick Park — offering plenty of intrigue even if each is unlikely to play more than a quarter.
Some are already considering this a preseason glimpse of a possible Super Bowl matchup come February, though coach Jim Harbaugh is quick to say that’s getting way ahead of things.
Last August, Manning completed 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-24 exhibition loss to San Francisco. The 49ers went on to reach the Super Bowl, falling 34-31 to Baltimore. The Broncos’ season ended prematurely in stunning fashion: a double-overtime loss to Joe Flacco and the eventual champion Ravens.
And, now, Kaepernick is entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback to start his third NFL season and determined to get the Niners back.
Harbaugh said Wednesday that Kaepernick would play one or two snaps and perhaps the entire first quarter, but not more than that.
For Kaepernick, these initial two weeks of training camp have been much the same to him as any other times of practice and preparation.
“Nothing (different),” he said. “For me it’s work. I’m here to work. I’m here to get better. I’m here to make sure I’m ready to play.”
Kaepernick said he met Manning before his senior season at Nevada, at the Manning Passing Academy.
Any message from Manning?
“He shared a lot of different things with all of the quarterbacks that were there,” Kaepernick said.
Anything specific that stuck with you?
Kaepernick: “Just tips, on the field, off the field, how he prepared for games.”
Anything you apply to this day?
Kaepernick: “All of them.”
New wideout Anquan Boldin, acquired from the Super Bowl champion Ravens during the offseason, is eager to see how he and Kaepernick do in their first game together — and there are big shoes for Boldin to fill with top 2012 wide receiver Michael Crabtree sidelined as he recovers from surgery on his torn right Achilles tendon.
Harbaugh is anticipating seeing Kaepernick and Boldin in a game atmosphere for the first time in what should be a dynamic combination for the Niners.
“Eager, eager, I’m jumping out of my skin,” Harbaugh said. “I really feel like they’re going to be jumping out of their skin ready to play this game.”
Boldin said he and Kaepernick already have developed a good line of communication — an important first step.
“I definitely think there is something to that as far as timing and chemistry,” Boldin said. “You definitely want to be on the same page. You want to understand how he’s seeing the game so you can adjust your routes accordingly. With me and Kaep is going good. I think the best part about it is the communication is there. Especially after every play, you get a feel for how the other guys are seeing things.”
Aside from seeing Boldin in uniform for the first time, the 49ers will get their first look at rookie first-round pick Eric Reid, though he is scheduled to rotate in as Craig Dahl will start at free safety.
Harbaugh said linebacker Patrick Willis wouldn’t play as he nurses an injured right hand that is expected to be healed by the Sept. 8 season opener against Green Bay. Running back Frank Gore also might sit out Thursday.
Defensive tackle Justin Smith, who has an injured right middle finger, said he doesn’t expect to play.
While Harbaugh and his coaching staff will do their share of evaluation, he isn’t ready to predict who might shine or how many snaps the starters might play on either side of the ball.
Harbaugh loves the competition among his players trying to win jobs.
“That’s where it’s on one hand intriguing and exciting. You want it to be clear cut, you want guys to clear cut make the team, clear cut be the starter, clear cut be the backup. You want to see that take place in these preseason games,” Harbaugh said. “The depth chart is not a painstaking thing that I go fill out.”
Notes: The 49ers are still keeping their expectations of the former British Olympic discus thrower, Lawrence Okoye, fairly low as he plays football for the first time. “He’s not a good football player,” Harbaugh said. “I want him to be a bad football player, because that’s really the next step up.”... So far, there’s no leading candidate for the backup quarterback job between Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien — and rookie B.J. Daniels is still in the mix, Harbaugh said.