SANTA CLARA -- Among all that's been said or written about Sunday's much-anticipated 49ers-Seahawks interface, I have not yet seen this sentiment:
It should be a hella fun football game.
The usual rivalry stuff will be afoot, including two emotional coaches and adrenaline-gorged teams. But a true highlight should be another matchup of two ascending, young NFL quarterbacks: Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Russell Wilson of Seattle. Given each man's skill set, we could be witnessing the early exploits in a long-running series of classic confrontations, the future version of Brady vs. Manning. That's especially fun to contemplate.
Of course, with Kaepernick and Wilson, one of the two seems to be having far more fun, period.
"Seems" could be the key word here. For all I know, Kaepernick goes home from work every night and laughs it up by exchanging knock-knock jokes with his neighbors over hot cocoa and graham crackers. But you'd never know it from his weekly sessions with the 49ers media contingent, when Kaepernick is invariably polite but relentlessly terse -- and just the opposite of Seattle's Wilson.
Example? The other day, both men were asked to comment on each other's talents and whether they had similar playing styles. Both answers were transcribed in their entirety.
This was Kaepernick on Wilson: "I haven't watched enough of him to really say. But he goes out, he makes plays for his team."
This was Wilson on Kaepernick: "Well, Colin is a tremendous person and player. First of all, he's a great athlete. He can make all the throws. He can run extremely well. He's a smart kid, too. It's one of those things where, I hope to play against him for a long time. Hopefully, I'm playing for the Seahawks for a really long time, and hopefully he's playing for the 49ers for a really long time. I have a lot of respect for his game."
Now, the NFL is an athletic competition, not a better-quotes contest. But when there's such a contrast in that department between Kaepernick and not just Wilson but nearly every other starting quarterback in the league ... well, that's not something to be totally ignored, either.
When video of these exchanges pops up on local television, I often hear from friends or 49ers fans. They ask if Kaepernick is as big of a "jerk" as he comes across on camera and whether he is a sullen individual.
No, I tell them. Kaepernick, from all I know, is a good guy and sensitive friend. In casual locker room moments, I've seen him smile and tease teammates. He does wonderful stuff for charities. He has never been rude to anyone in public, at least in any manner that's been brought to my attention.
Here is what Colt McCoy, the 49ers' backup quarterback, says of Kaepernick: "He has a great personality. I really like our time in the quarterbacks meeting room with him, me and (quarterbacks coach) Geep Chryst. We have a good time together."
So. What you see with Kaepernick on camera or during interviews is clearly not what others see the rest of the time. He simply chooses not to embrace the media stuff. In fact, Kaepernick often appears to be working extra hard to not embrace it. When he's asked a question, you can sense him pausing half a beat to think (or over-think) exactly how minimal and short his response can be.
At those moments, it reminds me a bit of how Kaepernick has performed on the field this season, when he's dropped back and occasionally paused an extra half beat to think (or over-think) where the ball should go or what his next move should be, rather than letting the game flow and trusting his instincts. The end result is often a sack or an incompletion.
Is that analogy a stretch? Perhaps. Regardless, the sound-bite awkwardness won't be changing soon.
"I signed a contract to play football," Kaepernick reiterated this week. "The media is just something I have the obligation to do."
No crime there. Kaepernick is allowed to have that attitude. Many young players do, until they figure out the bigger picture.
It's interesting that Seattle's Wilson has already learned this. At age 25, he's a year younger than Kaepernick. But in Wilson's telephone interview with Bay Area media this week, he described his weekly process of game preparation, offered his thoughts about the 49ers defensive line and apologized for initially using the word "war" to describe Sunday's game. None of the remarks were earth-shattering. But they did provide helpful insight.
Winning games is task one in pro football. But there are other elements involved, too. Fans of the 49ers really want to like Colin Kaepernick. They will enjoy it if he beats the Seahawks. They will enjoy it even more if he lets them come along for the ride.
It's OK to admit that you're having fun at your job and open up about that. I predict that one day, Kaepernick will. Maybe this Sunday. Because it should be hella fun.
Seattle (11-1) at 49ers (8-4), 1:25 p.m. FOX