As uncertainty looms, Colin Kaepernick focused on 49ers' finale

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- It's entirely possible that quarterback Colin Kaepernick will play his final game with the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

If he does, it will end a yearlong drama that saw Kaepernick undergo multiple surgeries, nearly be traded to the Denver Broncos, lose a quarterback competition to Blaine Gabbert, start a protest of racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem, renegotiate his contract, reclaim the starting quarterback job in Week 6 and lose nine straight starts before leading a comeback victory against the Los Angeles Rams.

Despite all of it, Kaepernick said he has been able to keep his attention on football.

"When I step into this building my focus is football and what I have to do to try to win and try to help this team win and I think our players, our coaches all have that same mentality," Kaepernick said. "So to me it's an easy environment to come into and work and make sure you're staying focused on that."

In reworking his contract, Kaepernick traded a potential 2017 injury guarantee for the right to opt out of his deal and become a free agent in the offseason. It has created plenty of uncertainty about his future with the team and in the league.

On Tuesday, Kaepernick shot down speculation he might turn to political and social pursuits full time when he offered an emphatic "yes" when asked whether he "for sure wanted to play in the NFL next season."

But that was about the extent of Kaepernick's willingness to talk about anything beyond Sunday's season finale. As Kaepernick has done for most of the season, he deflected multiple inquiries about his future.

To wit:

Question: "Looking ahead to next year, do you feel kind of a sense of uncertainty within the organization of what steps will be taken or what steps need to be taken in order to get this team back on track?"

Kaepernick: "For us, looking ahead is Sunday. So that's where our focus is right now. That's where all of our energy is going. We want to make sure we end this season right with a win and do everything this week to prepare for that."

Question: "But there's going to be a lot of evaluation going on with all the players. Have you given any thought at all to this could be, you could opt out, have you given any thought at all that this might be your last game?"

Kaepernick: "No. My focus once again is this week and making sure that I'm doing everything I can to prepare and to try to help my teammates prepare this week to get a win and I think that's where this whole team's focus is."

Through his normal Tuesday media session, Kaepernick made two other references to focusing on this week. But that doesn't mean there won't be plenty of chatter about his future moving forward, and he is certain to get similar queries after Sunday's finale and in a wrap-up meeting with the media on Monday.

Before Kaepernick's status can be determined, the Niners have a series of other decisions to make that have a direct impact on what becomes of him. Although Kaepernick can opt out of his contract -- and it's expected he will -- the Niners could still decide to release him if he threw a curveball and decided not to exercise that option.

Either way, both sides have plenty to think about as the offseason nears, and it's also possible Kaepernick could opt out and return on a new contract that might provide him more security.

From Kaepernick's perspective, there are some enticing reasons to stay in San Francisco. Although he has been at the controls for only one victory this season, Kaepernick has had some good moments and seems to be a fit in coach Chip Kelly's offense. Kelly and Kaepernick also seem to have a good relationship, and Kaepernick has previously expressed gratitude for Kelly's support of his protests. Those protests also have been better received in the Bay Area than they've been in other NFL markets, which could be appealing to Kaepernick.

Kaepernick is also healthy again and said he feels he has "gotten more and more back to myself" as the weeks have gone by.

"It has been a long time since I've felt this good," Kaepernick said. "I just felt fluid on the field. For me, that's something I want to be able to continue to build on and, especially moving forward, making sure that I'm doing everything to keep myself here and being able to improve that.

"I do know this is the best I've felt in a long time and, once again, I'm excited about that."

Meanwhile, the 49ers are still in need of a long-term answer at quarterback but could view Kaepernick as a bridge to someone younger. Changes are certainly in the offing, but with all four of their current quarterbacks set to become free agents should Kaepernick opt out, it would be foolish to enter next season without bringing back at least one signal-caller with experience in Kelly's system.

After losing his first nine starts, Kaepernick played an integral role in last week's comeback win. For him, the victory was galvanizing.

"I would say, you know, [it resparked] a love of winning," Kaepernick said. "It had been a long time since we had that feeling. And to get a win and get it that way I think was huge for this team. It kind of sets a standard for us now that we can look at and say, 'OK, this is what it took for us to win this week. We have to hold ourselves to this standard and above.'"

How much longer Kaepernick's use of the word "we" includes the 49ers remains to be seen.