SANTA CLARA -- Colin Kaepernick disputed that he's having trouble with his progressions in the passing game, a criticism recently levied by former 49ers quarterback and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer.

"I didn't hear what he had to say, but he's not in the building with us, so what he's saying doesn't affect me at all," Kaepernick said. "I'm worried about what this team thinks and what I'm doing in here with my teammates."

Teammates and coach Jim Harbaugh stood strongly behind Kaepernick on Wednesday, three days after the 49ers' five-game win streak ended amid the quarterback's worst career outing in terms of passing yards (91) and sacks (six).

"He's going to prepare like no other, come out Sunday and put on a show for us," linebacker NaVorro Bowman said of Sunday's game between the 49ers (6-3) and host New Orleans Saints (7-2). "That's just what we need. He's the leader of this team."

After Sunday's 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Dilfer claimed Kaepernick becomes "remedial" as a quarterback when his first potential target is covered.

Kaepernick's response: "I think you should ask him if he knows what my progression is first before he says that."

Dilfer did not immediately return a call seeking comment. During last season's quarterback controversy, Dilfer staunchly supported Alex Smith, his teammate in 2007 when Dilfer wrapped up his 14-year playing career. In January, Dilfer said Kaepernick had struggled with "all the graduate-level things" such as excelling on third-and-long and in the red zone.


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Harbaugh gave no credence to the recent criticism and noted that Kaepernick won ceremonial game balls for the two wins that preceded Sunday's defeat.

"We don't think anything's wrong with Colin," Harbaugh said. "We feel like his progression's been very good. He's playing winning football for us, and that's what we expect."

Kaepernick now heads to the Superdome, site of his first road win as the 49ers starter last November and also where the 49ers lost Super Bowl XLVII, 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens.

Saints coach Sean Payton isn't taking Kaepernick lightly, even though the 49ers remain saddled with the league's worst-ranked passing attack.

"He's explosive. He's someone who has a great handle on what they're doing offensively," Payton said on a media conference call. "A lot's asked of him at the line of scrimmage in regards to the run game and getting into the right play.

"If you track his season a year ago and his confidence level leading up to Super Bowl, it is quite an accomplishment. He understands what it takes to win games. He does a great job protecting the football and leading the offense."

Kaepernick insisted he hasn't changed from his breakout 2012 campaign. He conceded that defenses are adding "little wrinkles here, little wrinkles there" to thwart the 49ers' scheme.

Center Jonathan Goodwin noted that defenses are especially more prepared for read-option plays. "You've seen at times guys attack those mesh points differently, and they've been more aggressive," Goodwin said.

All three of Kaepernick's rushing touchdowns came in the 49ers' two games that preceded their loss to the Panthers.

"Of course, he hasn't had the really big numbers he's had in the past, but I see a confident quarterback," Goodwin said. " ... It's not as easy to just light it up."

Stating that Kaepernick has been "doing well," running back Frank Gore added: "Every year is going to get tougher. As long as he keeps standing in, manning up and giving his all, that's all we want from him."

  • Safety Eric Reid practiced Wednesday in non-contact fashion and must pass an impact test -- and avoid any post-concussion symptoms -- before fulfilling his dream of playing in his native Louisiana.

    "I have been looking forward to this," Reid said. "This is part of my dream, to get to play in that stadium against Drew Brees and the Saints. Hopefully I can do my part and get a win. As long as I feel fine and the doctors say I can play, then I'm going to play."

    Harbaugh said he's leaving Reid's availability up to the neurologists and doctors who continue to evaluate him. "I trust their tests," Harbaugh said. "My test, if you go back to my (playing) days, it was, 'One finger, three fingers, two fingers -- how many fingers are up?' It's advanced so much further than that."

  • Defensive tackle Ray McDonald did not practice because of a high, left-ankle sprain that likely will sideline him Sunday and perhaps the next couple of weeks. Demarcus Dobbs and Tony Jerod-Eddie are candidates to replace him. Tank Carradine is an option if the 49ers activate him for the first time his rookie season.

  • Defensive tackle Justin Smith (shoulder), outside linebacker Dan Skuta (left ankle) and tight end Garrett Celek (left hamstring) did not practice.

  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was not present at the start of team drills, as was the case Friday after his first two practices back from an Achilles tear. His status is unknown.

  • Wide receiver Kyle Williams was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Chiefs and given No. 19, once worn there by ex-49ers quarterback Joe Montana. Cornerback Perrish Cox cleared waivers.

    For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.

    SUNDAY'S GAME

    49ers (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2),
    1:25 p.m. FOX

    SUNDAY'S GAME

    49ers (6-3) at New Orleans (7-2), 1:25 p.m. FOX

    Grounded

    After opening the season with 412 yards passing in a win over Green Bay, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has struggled through the air. Here's a look at his passing yardage by game:

    Wk Opp Yards
    1 GB 412
    2 at SEA 127
    3 IND 150
    4 at STL 167
    5 HOU 113
    Wk Opp Yards
    6 ARI 252
    7 at TEN 199
    8 at JAX* 164
    9 CAR 91
    * -- Game in London