49ers' Kaepernick move gets test against Packers

Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:52pm EST
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - A bold mid-season quarterback change will get a high-profile test when Colin Kaepernick leads the San Francisco 49ers against Aaron Rodgers and the visiting Green Bay Packers in the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

Kaepernick replaced signal caller Alex Smith, after the former top draft pick came out with a concussion in Week 10 and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh decided to make the switch permanent, putting his faith in the second-year player.

A playoff baptism under fire awaits 25-year-old Kaepernick, who makes his National Football League postseason debut against reigning NFL most valuable player Rodgers, who two years ago led the Packers to the Super Bowl title.

Kaepernick, like some of the other new breed of quarterbacks that have hit the NFL, features running skills that have made him the 49ers' second-leading rusher with 415 yards and a 6.6 yards-per-carry average that includes five rushing touchdowns. He has also thrown for 10 scores.

"He's improved in all phases. Not dramatically because I think he was good to start with," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick.

Smith, who helped take the Niners into overtime of the NFC title game last season, was playing at a high level when he was sidelined but the 28-year-old top pick of the 2005 Draft does not have the arm strength or running speed of Kaepernick, who went 5-2 after taking over as starter.

The teams met in their season opener with San Francisco (11-4-1) prevailing 30-22 over the Packers (12-5) in Green Bay, but that was with Smith calling the plays.

ODD TWIST   Continued...

San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick sets up to throw a pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the first quarter of their NFL football game in Seattle, Washington, December 23, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Sorbo