SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was onstage at the ESPYs, making a fashion statement in a red sports coat and Hollywood shades.
He threw out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game, surprising the crowd — and the catcher — with an 87-mph throw.
He made headlines for what he took off (his clothes, for ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue) and what he put on (a Miami Dolphins hat, in a pot-stirring Twitter picture).
So far in 2013, Kaepernick has gone just about everywhere he has wanted to go.
Except into that end zone in the Superdome, where his 49ers were stopped five yards short of a Lombardi Trophy in a 34-31 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl XLVII. San Francisco's last three plays were incomplete passes thrown from the five-yard line toward Michael Crabtree.
"I think about it a lot," Kaepernick said Thursday, on the team's first day of training camp. "I think about it to make sure that doesn't happen again, that I put our team in a better situation next time."
It's easy to forget that Kaepernick has only 10 NFL starts, and that he was relatively anonymous at this time last year before he replaced the injured Alex Smith and never relinquished the starting job.
The 49ers are odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl, even after losing Crabtree to a torn Achilles' tendon for what figures to be most of the regular season.
Only two teams have won the Super Bowl a year after losing it, Dallas and Miami, and that was back in the 1971 and '72 seasons.
"As we've said before around here, we don't like easy," said linebacker Patrick Willis, who in fact has the word "hard" tattooed on his wrist.
Aside from Kaepernick's lament about how the Super Bowl ended, the 49ers are determined not to look back. Coach Jim Harbaugh abruptly snapped off that rearview mirror before Thursday's practice, telling reporters: "I'm a firm believer that if you have to talk about what you did yesterday, no matter how good it was, then you haven't done much today. So that's where we're at today going forward."
As if to emphasize that point, defensive tackle Justin Smith pushed back from the lectern when a reporter asked him a question about what he meant to the 2012 defense.
"We want to look at 2013," he said, the question dying in the awkward silence that followed.
At first glance, Kaepernick looks to have struck a delicate balance in that he's a fast-rising superstar who's still regarded as one of the guys. His is the NFL's top-selling jersey this year, passing that of Washington's Robert Griffin III.
"Kaep is a diverse guy," Harbaugh said. "And the coaches love him, the players love him. It's unique in that way, maybe, for a quarterback. You don't always see that, but I see that with Kaep. He's universally respected in the locker room and loved by his teammates. I guess I see that from the 25-to-35 demographic too, buying jerseys. People relate to him."
Receiver Kyle Williams said that starts with a foundation of hard work.
"He's able to relate with all of us," Williams said. "He's gone through the struggles of being a backup and having to get in there and make plays just like the rest of us have. He works. He's one of the guys where when we'd be out here doing our mini-camp stuff, he's out here at 7 in the morning running 200s for seemingly no reason. But he knows how to prepare himself. Guys respect that."
Just as he did last year, Kaepernick gave cordial but brief answers to reporters. Seldom were his responses longer than a sentence or two, a departure from most starting quarterbacks who typically are quasi-spokesmen for their teams.
Quote-wise, Kaepernick is a two-minute offense.
He did allow himself to smile a bit Thursday when asked about his naked magazine shoot and the feedback from teammates.
"I haven't had anything real bad yet," he said. "I feel like they're plotting on me right now."
If so, they will have the same problem as opposing defenses — they'll have to catch him first.