49ers Reggie Bush talks up Colin Kaepernick, role as receiver

By Jesse Reed

Reggie Bush is excited about Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers offense this upcoming season.

Speaking with KNBR on Wednesday, Bush raved about Kaepernick’s work ethic and upside (h/t CSN Bay Area):

“I’m just getting to know Kaepernick, but from what I’ve seen since Day 1, since I stepped foot in this facility, he’s been the hardest working guy on the team. He’s the first guy on the field, he’s the last guy off the practice field. He’s one of the last ones out of the weight room, he’s putting in extra work and overtime.

“So far I like what I’ve seen out of Kaepernick, and I’ve been around a number of quarterbacks now. His work ethic ranks at the top… he’s a leader on the football field, verbally, and running plays and stuff like that. I’m really excited to play with him, and obviously he has a tremendous amount of upside.”

Work ethic has never been an issue in question for Kaepernick.

Since joining the 49ers as a bright-eyed rookie out of Nevada in 2011, Kaepernick has embraced the challenge of being the leader of the 49ers, even before he wrested the starting role from Alex Smith.

Unfortunately, his work ethic couldn’t make up for a lack of technique and polish. As a result, Kaepernick often fell into bad habits when plays broke down—especially last year—and became extremely predictable for teams to gameplan against.

But with the departure of Jim Harbaugh, who never allowed the young quarterback to train outside the organization, Kaepernick immediately sought help from Kurt Warner and the EXOS team in Arizona this winter.

The results are evident already, as Kaepernick’s delivery, stance and throwing motion have all been improved. Whether those improvements hold under fire is another matter, but for now, there is hope for fans, and the franchise, eager to see him take the next step.

It’s a step Bush seems to think Kaepernick is ready to take, and if he does, the running back should be a primary beneficiary.

The 49ers featured the league’s most anemic passing attack as it concerns running backs in 2014. The disparity prompted general manager Trent Baalke to sign Bush in free agency—a player who is known for his speed and pass-catching abilities out of the backfield. With 466 career catches for 3,489 yards and 18 receiving touchdowns, Bush is one of the premier receiving backs in the NFL.

The 49ers only completed 5 screen passes to running backs last year, but Bush is confident that number will rise in 2015.

“Yeah, if you’re asking if we’re going to throw some swing passes, yes,” Bush said, laughing, after he was asked about his role this upcoming season. “I think that’d be an understatement.”

Many have wondered if Bush still retains the blazing speed that served him so well in college and his first years in the league. His production was significantly diminished last year with the Detroit Lions, due to nagging injuries, and it did appear he had lost a step or two.

All reports coming out of Santa Clara this spring have been to the contrary, however. Baalke has stated he doesn’t see any reason to think Bush isn’t as fast as ever. He spoke in glowing terms last week about the growing rapport between Kaepernick and the running back and hinted at a big role on third downs.

After losing Frank Gore to free agency, the 49ers hope Bush will be a part of the solution to replace the franchise-leading rusher.

From all accounts, he is well on his way.

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports