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Eleven takeaways from Thursday's minicamps, OTAs

The San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks took center stage this week, with Blaine Gabbert emerging as the "heavy favorite" to win the starting job despite Colin Kaepernick's long-awaited return to the practice field.

Although Kaepernick refused to discuss his fractured relationship with the team's front office, he stressed Thursday that he has no issues with Chip Kelly's coaching staff. In fact, Kaepernick believes Kelly's offensive system is "great for me."

Kaepernick insists he has matured since losing his QB1 spot to Gabbert last November.

"I'm definitely not the same person," Kaepernick said, via NFL Media's Steve Wyche. "Being able to grow ... I took a big step this offseason."

While Gabbert has seemingly gained momentum over the past month, Kelly emphasized the opportunity for Kaepernick to gain ground going forward.

"We have enough reps," Kelly said, per the Sacramento Bee. "We get enough reps during the course of training camp and during the course of our training where it's never been a concern for us in terms of, 'Geez, we're not going to get enough looks out there.' So we have enough reps for everybody."

Once Kaepernick fully recovers from three offseason surgeries, San Francisco's real quarterback competition will commence. The 49ers' first training camp practice is tentatively scheduled for July 31.

Here's what else we learned during Thursday's minicamps and organized team activities:

  1. If there was one team that could not afford to lose a talented young nucleus player on defense, it was the New Orleans Saints. Second-year defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha will miss the entire 2016 season after suffering a torn ACL. The injury leaves coordinator Dennis Allen short on depth and pass-rushing potential as he attempts to improve the league's worst defense.
  1. Is Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the No. 38 overall pick in the 2014 draft, falling out of favor in Tampa? The athletic tight end was dismissed from Thursday's practice because he "didn't know what he was doing," coach Dirk Koetter explained.

Seferian-Jenkins is in danger of losing his starting job after Koetter spent the past few months talking up second-year tight end Cameron Brate. Undrafted out of Harvard, Brate demonstrated a strong rapport with Jameis Winston and better than advertised receiving ability as a rookie.

  1. After years of watching tandem attacks in the backfield, the Broncos might finally have a workhorse feature back. Coach Gary Kubiak believes a streamlined C.J. Anderson is ready to be an every-down back, per NFL Media's James Palmer. Anderson and DeAngelo Williams were the AFC's best runners in the second half of the 2015 season.
  1. Former Falcons wide receiver Roddy White said he will end up retiring if he doesn't catch on with a contender. "I'll let it go into the season, maybe Week 4 or 5," White explained. "If it doesn't happen, I'll be putting my cleats on a power line, just like Marshawn Lynch."

This represents a bit of a Catch-22 for White. From what we've seen on game film the past two years, an offense won't be effective enough to mount a deep playoff run if a declining White is playing a major role in the aerial attack.

  1. Don't count rookie Derrick Henry out of the Titans' running back competition just yet. Although DeMarco Murray is penciled in as the lead back, offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie stressed that Tennessee's backfield will be a "hot hand" situation in 2016. Coach Mike Mularkey also pointed out that the bruising Henry has been very impressive as a pass catcher, belying pre-draft scouting reports.
  1. The Seahawks are coming off one of the most impressive four-year stretches of the 21st century. After hearing from coach Pete Carroll, we have reason to believe the defense will be as dominant as ever. Carroll believes the "Legion of Boom" secondary has even more flexibility this season with the Jeremy Lane and the perennial Pro Bowlers healthy, DeShawn Shead emerging as a strong third cornerback and Brandon Browner returning to match up with bigger receivers and tight ends.

"This is really as strong as I've felt we've gone into this portion of the year with versatility, and the competition is really going to be on," Carroll said. "... It does give us choices, matchup-wise, if it all stays somewhat the same. So that's a real positive."

  1. The Seahawks' Frank Clark has indeed slimmed down to 260 pounds, but he's not switching positions. Per Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune, Clark will remain a pass rusher at defensive end despite an offseason of speculation that he is moving to linebacker as Bruce Irvin's replacement.
  1. Hue Jackson continues to be the most relentlessly optimistic coach in the NFL. The new Browns head man raved about Corey Coleman, touting the first-round wideout as a "tremendous player."

"He's going to be really good," Jackson said. "I ride him pretty hard because he has so much ability, and I want to get it out of him. He's really shown why we drafted him in the first round. He is a tremendous talent, and if he keeps working like he is and stays as humble, and he has great desire to be a great football player, I think that's going to happen for him."

  1. In other rookie news, the Lions appear to be serious about stationing first-round pick Taylor Decker on Matthew Stafford's blind side. The former Ohio State star was at left tackle all three practices open to the media this offseason, while veteran Riley Reiff switched over to the right side.
  1. Say goodbye to the most polarizing touchdown dance in recent memory. Cam Newton revealed he will ditch the dab in favor of a new celebration this season.
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