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Dealing Cards: Arizona Cardinals still see Colin Kaepernick as a threat

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs from Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

TEMPE, Ariz. — In Colin Kaepernick, the Cardinals will face a quarterback who offers a skill most passers do not possess.

He can run.

Though not nearly the threat he once was with both his legs and his arm, the San Francisco 49ers’ QB is still someone who can pose a problem.

The Cardinals, who have already dealt with running quarterbacks in Tyrod Taylor, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton, know their work is cut out for them. Last Sunday in a loss to the Saints, Kaepernick threw for 398 yards and two touchdowns while running for 23 yards.

“He’s healthier than early in the year when he played a little bit,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of Kaepernick, who took over as San Francisco’s starter in Week 6. “He’s obviously getting into a groove now — he’s probably getting many more snaps in practice, which is going to make him better.

“He got into a nice rhythm throwing the ball, especially in the first half last week, and he’s always a threat on the option.”

Arians said where Kaepernick has hurt the Cardinals most in the past has been when he has dropped back to pass only to then take off and run.

“That’s always a problem with running quarterbacks because you want to be aggressive and go sack them, but you have to be careful in your rush lanes.”

The Cardinals this season have had mixed success against mobile quarterbacks, struggling to contain the Bills’ Taylor in a Week 3 loss while bottling up Wilson in a Week 7 tie. Newton, meanwhile, ran for 43 yards on seven carries.

The experience against all of them could play a role this weekend.

“It really helps because there’s so much carryover week to week,” Arians said. “It seems like everybody is running a zone read and we caught a bunch of them in a row.”

Arians said he believes Kaepernick is playing at a similar level to what he did a few years ago, though he has been mostly slow to get on track this season. Prior to the performance against the Saints, the 29-year-old struggled in losses to the Bills and Buccaneers, completing just 29-of-63 passes for 330 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, though he did pick up 150 yards on the ground.

Kaepernick, though, feels like things have progressed.

“I think it’s getting back into a rhythm,” he said. “It had been almost a full year since I had been back really in live action in games. So it just took a little bit to get comfortable really. Now that comfort is starting to come back.

“Seeing the concepts that we’re running, how things flow together, in live action on game day, is important as well. Now getting to see those things and getting those reps, I think that’s something I get more and more comfortable with.”

A more comfortable Kaepernick would figure to be a more dangerous one, though the last time he and the Cardinals squared off, in Week 3 of last season, he struggled — mightily.

In the game, which the Cardinals won 47-7, Kaepernick was picked off by Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu, respectively, on the 49ers’ first two drives — with both interceptions being returned for touchdowns — en route to a day in which he completed 9-of-19 passes for 67 yards with four interceptions. He ran for 46 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, but it was not nearly enough to make the game competitive.

“It was a good pass rush,” Arians said of what worked that day. “He was not able to set his feet and he had to double-clutch two of them. Tyrann and Justin both read those routes very well and broke on the ball well, but the pass rush was the key.”

The Cardinals have a better pass rush this season than last, which could bode well for their chances of a repeat performance Sunday afternoon. However, Kaepernick does not necessarily see it that way.

For him, a return to Glendale offers a chance to erase a bad memory.

“Last time we played down there, that was probably the worst game of my career that I can think of,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to go down there and redeem myself, and also try to help this team get a win and get back on track; start by breaking our current losing streak and trying to get on a winning streak.”

Injury update

The official injury report can be seen here, and on it three Cardinals did not practice in any capacity. Safety Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) was out, as expected, as was cornerback Tharold Simon, who is dealing with an ankle injury. Quarterback Carson Palmer did not practice, either, though it was deemed a veteran’s day off.

About that day off

The idea that Palmer needed another day off the week after the bye may seem odd, but Arians said the 36-year-old QB as well as 33-year-old receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was limited with an ankle injury, would normally not be asked to do too much on a Wednesday, anyway.

“It’s that time of the year,” he said. “At their age, they need rest. But, don’t tell them I said that.”

Palmer was not informed of Arians’ comments, though he did acknowledge that rest days are a part of his routine now and he has learned to appreciate them.

“You want the reps; you want to be in the huddle,” he said. “You don’t want to be standing around at practice, but they’re so beneficial. As the season gets going, they go a long way. Just one of them goes a long way.

“I’ve been a gym rat for so long. I want every rep and I’m greedy with every rep, but I’ve learned to understand the importance of recovery and rest and sleep, and all those things. I understand how important it is for feeling great Sunday.”

The benefit of the time off, the QB said, comes in feeling great on Sunday.

Kaepernick’s stance

The 49ers QB made headlines in the preseason when it was noticed he was not standing for the national anthem before the game, instead choosing to kneel.

At the time, there was quite the hullabaloo. Since then, the attention has seemed to die down some, and other players in the NFL have even knelt or come up with their own way to protest what they see as an oppressive society.

Kaepernick admitted the response to his decision, which also included plenty of support, was a bit surprising.

“It was something I initially didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I just knew I had confidence in what I believed and the reasons why I believed it. The fact that other people see that, they live that and see that as a stance that they agree with, I think shows the impact and power behind it and also the logic behind it.

“It’s something that a lot of people live on a daily basis and we don’t like to address, we don’t like to talk about it. We like to try and sweep it under the rug, but at some point, when are we going to change? When are we going to live up to the standards that we say we do?”

Whether one agrees with Kaepernick’s message or protest is truly up to them, just as a vote in Tuesday night’s presidential election was. And in terms of that, which was won by Republican candidate Donald Trump, Kaepernick had little care.

“I really didn’t play too close of attention, because I’ve been very disconnected from the systematic oppression as a whole,” he said. “So, for me, it’s another face that’s going to be the face of that system of oppression, and to me, it didn’t really matter who went in there. The system still remains intact that oppresses people of color.”

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