SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Colin Kaepernick understands the legacy left by Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young and so many others during a historic four-decade run at Candlestick Park.
As the San Francisco 49ers prepare for their first preseason game at new Levi’s Stadium, Kaepernick is determined to start something special in the team’s flashy new digs next-door to the practice fields where the quarterback spends most of his waking hours.
And his Niners will get a nice test Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, who lost in the Super Bowl to San Francisco NL West rival Seattle. The Broncos beat the Seahawks 21-16 in a rematch last Thursday in both teams’ preseason opener.
“It’s an opportunity for us to start our own legacy,” Kaepernick said. “There was a lot of tradition, a great legacy at Candlestick and this is an opportunity for us to really make this our home and start something new here.”
Stevie Johnson, for one, has a few mixed emotions as he prepares for his home debut after an offseason trade from the Buffalo Bills back home to the Bay Area. He grew up throwing rocks off Candlestick Point and would have loved to play there. The wide receiver understands what a new stadium means to the franchise, taking a glance up at the $1.2 venue after a recent practice.
“I’ve said it all the time, growing up you’d always see Candlestick,” Johnson said. “That’s right there where home is. Being able to play there for a season would be sweet, but look at that thing over there. You can’t deny that that’s a beautiful stadium right there and we’re opening it up.”
Not without a few concerns from coach Jim Harbaugh about his defense after a 23-3 preseason loss at Baltimore to big brother, John, and the Ravens on Aug. 7.
The Major League Soccer San Jose Earthquakes beat the Seattle Sounders in the first sporting event at Levi’s Stadium on Aug. 2, and now it’s the Niners turn at last. They held a public practice in Levi’s on Aug. 1, and now things get going for real.
Those former 49ers and San Francisco Giants who spent their best years making history at The `Stick are sad to see it go, though many welcome a state-of-the-art, tech-savvy stadium in the heart of Silicon Valley – even if it’s some 43 miles from San Francisco proper. The Giants left for AT&T Park on the San Francisco waterfront in 2000.
Place kicker Phil Dawson, punter Andy Lee and second-year long-snapper Kevin McDermott have been regulars testing out the new conditions, which should be a far cry from the unpredictable blustery winds and cool temperatures along the shores of San Francisco Bay.
“I’m looking forward to getting in there and getting acclimated to the wind, sun and the shade,” backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. “It’s brand new and it’s in beautiful shape.”
Aside from the fanfare, there’s a tough schedule ahead to be most concerned about. That includes a pair of dates with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in what should be another wild NFC West race.
The Levi’s Stadium regular-season opener is a prime-time date against the Chicago Bears on Sept. 14.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman appreciates Kaepernick’s thinking about starting off the right way.
“There’s a lot of credence to that. That’s our home,” Roman said. “And I think people knew when they were coming to Candlestick, to quote who was it, (Robert) De Niro, `They’re in for a dog day afternoon.’ But, we’ve got to go out and prove that all over again in our new stadium. So, I think guys are really excited about everything about the new stadium. So, just got to go defend the flag.”