SANTA CLARA — Jim Harbaugh wants to ensure mobile San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't blatantly targeted.
So the 49ers coach has gone to the NFL for clarity about when Kaepernick is supposed to be safe before declaring himself a runner.
Kaepernick ran the read option to near perfection on the big stage against Green Bay back in January. In this scheme, quarterbacks aren't as protected when they leave the pocket if it is clear they are runners.
"You're hearing a lot of tough talk right now, you're hearing some intimidating type of talk, the same thing we were hearing a couple years ago," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "It sounds a lot like targeting a specific player. You definitely start to wonder. A man will usually tell you his bad intentions if you just listen. You know what's being said publicly, not what's being said privately. You hope that their intent isn't going to be anything that's not within the rules."
Kaepernick ran right past the Packers in the playoffs, and through them, too.
Kaepernick's breakout game in a breakthrough season came in his first career playoff start only two months after winning San Francisco's starting job, carrying the 49ers to a 45-31 divisional-round victory in which he ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more.
He set a quarterback playoff record in the process with 181 yards rushing in the win that sent San Francisco to a second straight NFC title game.
Kaepernick said he can't concern himself with the defense's motivations.
"I'm not worried about that," he said. "It's football, you're going to get hit."
Green Bay had no answer for the Niners' spot-on read option. Coach Mike McCarthy said the biggest problem for the Packers was getting Kaepernick when he scrambled out of the pocket.
When asked whether he was surprised at just how well everything went, Kaepernick responded: "You're supposed to go out and perform as players. That's what you get paid to do. You can only line 11 people up so many ways, so we've seen a lot of different looks."
Linebacker Clay Matthews insists the Packers will be better prepared come Sunday's season opener at Candlestick Park when they try again to slow down — and stop — Kaepernick.
"For the most part we had the entire offseason to focus on this," Matthews said Wednesday. "You look at the progression of the league and specifically quarterbacks, Kaepernick, you look at Washington, Seattle, there are quarterbacks around the league that present problems not only with their arms but with their legs, too. Whether that's in the pistol or the read-option offense, they're becoming more and more difficult to contest. We had an entire offseason to focus on last year's loss, having time to kind of figure out a way to defend that. We obviously like to think we're better prepared to defend that type of offense and what he brings to the table."
Harbaugh plans to speak to the officials before the game about what the coach calls a "gray area" in the rules. He doesn't expect to hear back from the league before the game.