Colin Kaepernick played just one series at quarterback for the 49ers in Thursday's exhibition opener at Baltimore. He threw one pass, for a 17-yard gain. He handed off the ball several times. Then he sat down.

Thus, for at least one evening, we were spared from any overheated commentary about Kaepernick being the future of NFL quarterbacking, or a pure-lock Hall of Famer, or the human race's sole hope to survive an asteroid collision with earth.

This kind of stuff seems to be happening more and more in today's world. It's a disease. As soon as any player -- in any sport -- has one amazing season or one amazing month or even just one amazing preseason performance, we rush to proclaim that he could be one of the greatest athletes ever.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick answers question during an NFL football press conference on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Santa Clara,
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick answers question during an NFL football press conference on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. Kaepernick received a new six-year contract extension Wednesday that keeps him with the franchise through the 2020 season. (AP | Marcio Jose Sanchez)

You might call this disease Jaworskitis, as a tribute to former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. A year ago this month, Jaworski was asked for his opinion of Kaepernick's talents. At the time, Kaepernick had started 10 games for the 49ers.

"I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever," Jaworski said.

Well, no.

At least not yet. Kaepernick had terrific and ugly moments in 2013. He is a compelling and exciting player who is learning his trade and giving us plenty of thrills. That's as far as we can go.

I was pondering this topic Thursday mostly because of Tiger Woods. He spent the morning gutting his way through the first round at the PGA Championship. Woods had back surgery March 31. He is clearly struggling in the aftermath.


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Thursday, Woods wobbled and plowed his way through 18 troublesome holes. He hit one ball into a creek. He hit another that bounced off a cart path. He had only one birdie. He finished 3-over-par. He is already nine shots out of the lead after just one day of golf.

Afterward, Woods didn't attempt a positive spin, telling reporters, "It wasn't very good -- a lot of bad shots, and I never got a putt to the hole."

Back in 2001, this is not the Tiger Woods that everyone expected to see in 2014. He might be the ultimate case of Jaworskitis.

A dozen years ago, after Woods' first six seasons as a pro, he was hailed as a sure-thing lock to become the paramount golfer of all time. Media voices predicted he would easily surpass Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major championships. Woods' own father went far beyond that assessment, saying, "Tiger will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity."

Well, no.

For the record, I never went anywhere near those sorts of words in writing about Woods. Did I praise his phenomenal performances? Of course. At his peak, Words was playing golf as good or better than any person who ever held a club. But that did not make him the greatest golfer of all time. Achieving greatness is more of a marathon than a sprint.

It would be a gas to see Woods regain his old form. Watching him at his best was a pleasure, provoking awe and ridiculous laughter. However, Woods has not won a major title since 2008. He is not going to win one this year. He is stuck on 14 major victories. At age 38, his window to achieve best-ever status is closing. Nicklaus is still the best ever.

What's the deal with Jaworskitis? Why do we succumb to it so often? Why can't we just enjoy what is in front of us when we see something very cool on a field of play? Why must we have to inflate the balloon? I was pondering that this week, when the news about Giants pitcher Matt Cain crossed my laptop screen. Cain's season is over because he needs surgery for bone chips in his throwing arm.

To be sure, nobody ever declared that Cain could become the best pitcher ever. But when he threw his perfect game in 2012 as Tim Lincecum's consistency faded, Cain was elevated to near-superstar status. Pundits wondered if he might be the best Giants right-handed starter since Gaylord Perry or Juan Marichal, both Hall of Famers.

Well, no.

If Cain returns pain-free next spring, he can resume and complete a fine major league career. But he will not be the next Perry or Marichal.

The lesson, for the next several months in particular: As the NFL season gears up and the glorious verbiage starts piling up about Kaepernick or Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson or any other exciting young quarterback, make sure to pump the brakes. Recognize the symptoms of Jaworskitis.

Why worry so much about posterity, anyway? We should enjoy the games, minute by minute. We should enjoy the outstanding players, game by game. And if someone in your presence starts getting ahead of the curve in forecasting greatness, we should step in and utter those two important words.

Well, no.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com.