SANTA CLARA – Blaine Gabbert spoke to a group of reporters in the media room after Tuesday’s OTA. Here are selected quotes from that group interview.
Q: You’re learning new receivers and you’re also learning a new system. What’s that balance like for you?
GABBERT: It makes it fun. This is my sixth system in six years, so kinda starting from scratch, starting from the lowest building block and working up with these guys. You’re all learning at the same pace, so there’s going to be gradual improvement throughout the summer.
Q: What has it been like in the quarterback room with you and Colin Kaepernick? Any awkwardness?
GABBERT: It has been normal. His focus right now is rehab, and my focus right now is learning offense, being in the weight room, being with the guys on the football field. But no, it’s been great. We’re in the meetings together, we’re in the locker rooms together and we’re out there working to get better together.
Q: Not being able to throw the ball in practice, how much do you think that’s going to hinder him in picking up this offense?
GABBERT: It’s funny, because I was in his shoes my second year coming back from a shoulder surgery. You just have to make the most of the mental reps. Physical reps are the best reps you get, but at the same when you’re standing behind, you’ve got to watch the guys get reps in front of you and then watch the film.
Q: How are you using this time to take charge as the starting quarterback where you left off last year?
GABBERT: I just kind of take it and run with it. I’m having fun. Just trying to build on the last eight weeks of last year. Building confidence in guys. Getting guys to trust in me and this offense, and just going out there and having fun. That’s the biggest thing right now. You’ve got to enjoy this summer process because it’s like recess on grass. We just go out there and have a ball. We’ve got the music rolling. It has been a good time so far.
Q: You, Colin Kaepernick and Jeff Driskel all are about the same size and speed. Is there a benefit to having three similar quarterbacks?
GABBERT: I don’t know. I just catch the ball, throw the ball and run with it if I have to. But, yeah. Jeff’s a good athlete. Colin’s a good athlete. Thad’s a good athlete. I think I’m a pretty decent athlete. So I guess it’s a good thing.
Q: Do you think your athleticism is underrated? I don’t think people would perceive you as being the athlete Colin is.
GABBERT: Yeah, everybody is going to have their opinion. But I can run with them pretty good.
Q: A few of the guys have talked about the leadership that you’ve demonstrated. While there’s a competition, do you have to kind of tread lightly a little bit before asserting yourself as the leader?
GABBERT: No, I don’t think I have to tread lightly at all. For me, being a quarterback, you have to be the leader. You’ve got to be the vocal guy on the football team, directing this offense, directing really offense, defense and special teams on game day. And that’s the thing that I enjoy. I like being the guy that guys look to, whether to get them lined up, if they’re looking for advice, just providing the offense with a little bit of juice on the field.
Q: Colin’s future is murky, and there has been a lot written about what the 49ers are going to do at quarterback. The implication is you are not a long-term answer. You have a chance to prove some skeptics wrong. Did you listen to a lot of that, and are you eager for the opportunity?
GABBERT: To be honest, I really didn’t listen at all. But no, the opportunity is front of me and this football team to go out there and have a great season, start off on the right foot. I look at that challenge as one that I’m willing to accept. Nothing is ever going to be given to you, especially in the National Football League. You’re not going to be given a job – you’ve got to go out there and take it. And that’s my mindset. I’m never going to shy away from competition. You’re always competing whether it’s against somebody or against yourself, and I welcome that.
Q: Many people thought the 49ers might take a quarterback early in the draft. Obviously they waited until the sixth round to take one. Do you take that as a vote of confidence in you?
GABBERT: Teams are going to draft quarterbacks just to get numbers. Usually teams carry four or five quarterbacks – I’m not really sure. I’m going to go out there and do my job, compete with the guys in the room and the best guy is going to play. Plain and simple.
Q: Is this offense similar to the one you ran at Missouri?
GABBERT: Shoot, that was a long time ago. That was seven or eight (offenses) ago. But yeah, it’s very similar. All offenses and schemes are similar. They all run very similar concepts, but it’s the verbiage and tempo that changes. Your reads sometimes change, but it’s very similar. We were in the shotgun pretty much the entire time I was at Mizzou, but I would say most offenses are a lot of shotgun now.
Q: Is there a comfort zone being in the shotgun?
GABBERT: Yeah, you really get to see everything. That’s why it’s so fun, because Coach Kelly puts the trust in us to make the right decision, be definitive with the football and just run. That’s the thing that he says – stay on time, stay on schedule and keep the ball moving.
Q: Because you’ve been in so many offenses, do you find it easier to pick them up now than in the past?
GABBERT: Yeah, I feel like I’m getting pretty good at learning them. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. What you put into it is what you’re going to get out. I take pride in thinking I’m a smart guy. You’ve just got to work diligently throughout the week, especially off the field before the meetings even start so you’re prepared going in. Because you’re going to get asked questions and you want to be on top of your game. And then when you get out on the football field, you don’t want to be thinking. When you’re thinking, you’re going to play slow. That’s the biggest thing at the quarterback position. You’ve got to be reacting and it’s got to be muscle memory.