SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The competition to earn the title of San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback is officially underway.
It was just the first step in what figures to be a lengthy battle between Gabbert and Kaepernick.
Speaking before Sunday's practice, Kelly didn't want to put a timetable on making a decision between his two signal-callers.
"I think sometimes if you put a preconceived date on it, it's not fair," Kelly said. "I've been in them before. Obviously, you'd like to get it done sooner rather than later. But you don't want to get it done sooner and then make the wrong decision. So, I think how we train and what we do on the practice fields and then obviously the opportunity to play in preseason games will give us a real good indication, we hope, as we head into the regular season."
Sunday's practice offered no early statements on which quarterback is more up to the task. Gabbert entered with more experience in the offense after working with the unit in the offseason program, but Kaepernick is now healthy. Kelly got his first chance to actually see Kaepernick perform live -- and not on game tape.
"I haven't seen him," Kelly said. "I've seen him on film. We've played against him, and he was outstanding when we played against him. But, I haven't had a chance to see him full go. So, just to get a chance to see what 100 percent Kap is going to be like."
Kaepernick was back participating in practice after recovering from shoulder, thumb and knee injuries. Those ailments cost him the final seven games of last season and rendered him a spectator for the bulk of the 49ers offseason program. Making matters worse, Kaepernick's inability to stay on a full weight-training program while he was rehabilitating left him shedding pounds that he normally carries to stand up to the rigors of the NFL. Kaepernick returned for this camp closer to his usual playing weight of 230 pounds.
"Definitely putting a lot of weight back on," Kaepernick said. "I don't look like my high school self anymore. I feel like I look more like an adult now."
Kaepernick took mental reps and did some walk-through work with the offense in the spring, but on Sunday, he had a chance to drive the offense for the first time from behind center. Although Kelly's offense is new, it didn't feel too uncomfortable for Kaepernick.
"A lot of the stuff we do is similar to what I did in college, so I have a little bit of that to fall back on, as well as the reps I did take in the spring helped," Kaepernick said. "Whether it's mental reps or walking through it, they all count and they all help."
Gabbert, meanwhile, said he felt as if he was just picking up right where he left off at the end of organized team activities in June.
"That's the way the competition goes, and you've just got to make the most of your opportunity," Gabbert said. "This isn't my first quarterback competition I've ever been in and definitely won't be the last. So, when you're out there, you've just to make the most out of your opportunities and go out there and have fun."
Kelly's practice plan for Sunday had 24 built-in reps for the first-team offense; Kaepernick and Gabbert split those reps evenly. They also divvied up the same 24 reps with the second unit.
For whatever it's worth, Gabbert took the first round of first-team reps. As for making a decision on which quarterback will win the job, Kelly said there isn't a magic bullet that will lead to a choice. Instead, he'll be focused on finding the player who is accurate, makes good decisions with the ball and shows some leadership qualities.
"I think, first and foremost, is who can move the team the best," Kelly said. "That's what you're always looking for. Which quarterback can handle what they're doing and get the team in the end zone? Obviously, you have to protect the ball in doing that. So, we're excited to see it.
"The great part about it is I think we're confident in both those guys. It's good to have two. In my three years before, we've had to play two quarterbacks every year. So, it's a good situation to be in."