Kaepernick helps self with media effort

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colin Kaepernick is improving his media game.

Is that important? Yes, allow me to explain why.

Generally, media members couldn't care less if a player wants to cooperate. If they want to talk, we love to get their insights and express them to the football-craved world. If they are reluctant, that’s OK, too. I’m not going to force anyone to talk to me. There are plenty of other players in the locker room.

A starting quarterback, however, is a different story.

As the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick is a face of the franchise. He has the power to mold the message during the good and bad. After a rough news conference to start the season, Kaepernick seems to be starting to understand that role.

He is one of the more talented, exciting players in the game and, by all accounts, he is a solid, friendly and happy person off the field.

But Kaepernick was doing himself a disservice earlier in the season by treating his short, twice-weekly media sessions (on Wednesdays and after games) as a form of personal torture. He seemed miserable talking to reporters.

I was shocked at how purposely uninteresting Kaepernick made himself look on the Wednesday before the Green Bay game. It was my first time around Kaepernick in person. I had interviewed him on the phone prior to the draft and as the AFC West blogger. I had come away from those experiences thinking Kaepernick was an excellent interview. Not this time.

Albeit polite and patient, Kaepernick showed no personality as he robotically gave painfully short and unhelpful answers. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there. I'd never seen an NFL quarterback conduct himself like that in a press setting.

As these types of interviews continued (including on conference calls with media covering the opposing team), folks started to notice. Reporters passed along how many words Kaepernick -- who, by the way, was never rude or mean spirited -- uttered in his news conferences. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t a lot. ESPN's "SportsCenter" anchors commented on how short and joyless Kaepernick was on camera.

But since last week, Kaepernick has clearly made an effort to give more thoughtful answers. He even smiles some while doing it. Wednesday, he was even playful as he led a media throng to an enclave of the locker room inhabited by a shy offensive line. Everyone thought Kaepernicks’ gag was a hoot.

Kaepernick showed he has a personality and went a long way. And that’s all he has to do: Give a little effort. We don’t have to be friends, but our few minutes a week together should not be a visit to the dentist either.

Kaepernick is a bright light for this organization and likely will be for the next decade. It’s good for the public to see him enjoying himself. He also deserves a little time to grow into this role. Unlike fellow young quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, Kaepernick was under the radar while starring at Nevada. Then he was a backup quarterback, with little media responsibility, before taking over for Alex Smith in an awkward situation last season.

Much like on the field, Kaepernick is still growing in front of the lights. But as long as his efforts continue to be strong, no one can complain. I’d be lying if I said Kaepernick’s improved media work will make him a better player. But it could make him a better-liked player. There’s nothing wrong with that.