Colin Kaepernick's former 49ers teammate says it was Chip Kelly who punted the elephant out of the room after the QB's first kneeling protest ... with Jeremy Kerley telling TMZ Sports the coach couldn't have handled the situation any better.
"I love Chip for it," Kerley says.
The ex-S.F. wideout tells us shortly after Kaepernick began his protest of social injustices during 2016 NFL national anthems ... Kelly didn't allow things to get awkward.
In fact, Kerley says the former Niners head man brought the team together almost immediately and gave Kaepernick the floor to speak his mind to the locker room.