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Colin Kaepernick is seen at a special training event created by Kaepernick to provide greater access to scouts, the media, and the public, at Charles. R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia, U.S., November 16, 2019.
Colin Kaepernick speaks to the media following a special training event created by Kaepernick to provide greater access to scouts, the media, and the public, at Charles. R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia, U.S., November 16, 2019.
Avoided NFL interview, didn’t take reporters’ questions
So, will any team sign Colin Kaepernick? Or work him out? Or even talk to him?
Nobody knows. But at this point, that’s all anybody wants to know.
There are so many nuances and angles to the latest episode of Kaep-gate — so many takes and justified indignation on both sides regarding the fiasco that was, and became, the lead-up to his on-field workout last Saturday — that I could write 1,000 words listing all the reasons why the NFL was most at fault. For cruelly trying to shame and diminish the controversial, shunned quarterback by ramming a sham, unprecedented, nearly no-notice, no-media-allowed, video-controlled, legal-ropes(not strings)-attached workout down his and the public’s throat.
Just as I could write 1,000 words listing all the reasons why Kaepernick was most at fault, for his decision to pull the plug on the league’s workout only minutes beforehand, then holding one elsewhere an hour later in the Atlanta area, at a high school he obviously had to have lined up in advance, complete with security and enthusiastic, sign-carrying supporters waiting to watch it.
Over these past seven days there has been so much more to digest than all that went down for three-plus years before it, as to morph this man and his playing abilities, his politics and his motivations into something entirely more complicated. If that was even possible.
In the end, The Workout picked all the barely formed scabs off the most militant takes on both sides of the two Kaepernick debates: His actions off the field, and his abilities on it.
You know what those arguments all are, and you surely by now know where you stand on the matters — three years after he began the movement to kneel during the pre-game playing of the National Anthem (as a means of protesting racial and social injustices in America), and some 35 months since he last played a down or stepped inside an NFL locker room.
Looking forward, the questions are simple; the answers are not.
First and foremost, can he still play?
Via video he arranged to have streamed live via social media, Kaepernick showed he for sure still possesses the elite arm strength he displayed when he piloted the San Francisco 49ers from 2012-16, including to within one short completion of a Super Bowl win following the 2012 season.
Asterisks? He was inaccurate on some throws on Saturday, deep and short. And his receivers ran passes against air defenders, just as air was his only pass rush.
Another potential asterisk is that typically when a top college prospect holds such a “pro day” workout at his university, in the weeks leading up to the draft, he has rehearsed such throws for weeks with the same receivers, if not months or even years.
We do not know for how long Kaepernick has been throwing passes to Saturday’s foursome: ex-NFLers Bruce Ellington, Brice Butler, Jordan Veasy and Ali Werts. Was it just for a few days? Such a scripted workout entails the requisite left-and-right, deep-and-short passes from the proverbial NFL passing tree. Had Kap and Co. been working on all of them, intricately, for weeks? If not, Kaepernick was less prepared than any pro-day QB ever. And if not, how much was that responsible for some of his concerning errant throws?
Reporters in touch with Kaepernick or his representatives have asserted over these last three years that he has remained in top physical condition, and continues to throw footballs as an NFL-quarterback-in-waiting typically does until the phone rings. Surely he will continue to do so.
Will the phone ring, though?
Some say he did more damage to his cause, in a number of ways.
First, by not just going along with what the NFL insisted upon, even if unfairly so, at the last moment last Tuesday. The league demanded he not bring his own video crew. It demanded no media be allowed in to watch, even though that’s permitted at every rookie-in-waiting’s pro day. It demanded he submit to an interview that would be videotaped for all teams. It preferred he pass footballs to assigned, unfamiliar receivers under assigned NFL-connected coaches. And it demanded he sign a waiver that — reports say — would have taken away his right to ever again sue the league for collusion, as he did successfully last year.
Not going along with NFL norms — such as standing at attention during The Star Spangled Banner — is what earned him infamy and what got him ostracized in the first place, whether or not you agree with it.
This is not to say the NFL doesn’t have a lot to answer for. Some of its actions and demands last week are indefensible.
But by suddenly pulling out of the NFL’s arranged workout on Saturday afternoon — where scouts from 25 of 32 teams were on hand, awaiting his arrival at the Atlanta Falcons facility — and announcing he’d be holding his own workout elsewhere, all on less than an hour’s notice, Kap at that point as much punched all his potential employers in the nose.
Who does that and expects to get a job offer?
Only seven teams’ reps made it to the high school to see him throw, per CBS: those from the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions. Kap thanked them for coming.
But you know what may have hurt Kaepernick most of all? That he didn’t partake in the NFL’s interview. Then didn’t even take questions from reporters after his own workout.
Think of it. What would have been the riskiest thing about the whole enterprise from his standpoint? Clearly he knew his arm talent could and would still impress. Rather, it had to have been that he’d surely be asked about his protesting behaviour. Clearly, his passion for his causes has not abated, and there’s not a single thing wrong with that.
But is he prepared at all to separate those political thoughts and actions from the football field? To me, the answer seems a firm no. Whatever his answer, I imagine that’s what teams want to know most.
More to the point, would his kneeling protests continue? Would he start some other type of in-view protest that would inflame as large a chunk of any team’s fan base, as his kneel-downs did? Would he be willing to say his piece upon signing, then just be a typical backup quarterback, who is barely seen and rarely heard from thereafter unless plugged into duty?
To me, not answering any of those concerns either privately with the NFL, or in going there publicly with reporters, constituted the biggest damage Kaepernick did to himself on Saturday — again, no matter how much you agree with him politically, or empathize with the reasons for his protests.
Kaepernick reinforced said damage by his not-exactly conciliatory post-workout statement to the press, which included bitter shots at the NFL:
“Our biggest thing with everything today is making sure we had transparency with what went on. We weren’t getting that elsewhere, so we came here.
“I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years … We have nothing to hide.
“So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, (commissioner) Roger Goodell, all of them, to stop running, stop running from the truth, stop running from the people … I’ll interview with any team at any time.
“I’ve been ready. I’m staying ready.
“We’ll be waiting to hear from Roger Goodell, the NFL, 32 teams … The ball’s in their court. We’re ready to go.”
How will NFL team owners, talent evaluators and coaches interpret that? Probably that, for Kaepernick, it’s still all about him. Or at least too much about him.
Former NFL player and two-time head coach Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC, is as level-headed as any league commentator. An Africa-American, Dungy’s philanthropy and good-heartedness is legend. He summed up Kaepernick’s uncertain future best when he tweeted this on Monday afternoon:
“Colin is more talented than many of the QBs in the NFL. There are many teams that won’t sign him. But is he willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to be on a team? I don’t know.”
FIVE FAST FACTS: Green Bay is the only team that has yet to convert a fourth down, on an NFL-low three attempts … Sam Darnold is the first New York Jet to throw four TDs on the road since 2002 … The Patriots are allowing foes to convert third downs at only a 19.3% clip … Detroit wore white uniforms at home for the first time since 1970, at Tiger Stadium, two stadiums ago … Winless Cincinnati is officially eliminated from post-season contention.
TAKING A KNEE: The 49ers have now twice defeated the Arizona Cardinals. Both times they were life-and-death to do it.
One of the least appreciated accomplishments this NFL season is what rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie No. 1 overall draft pick Kyler Murray each have done in their first NFL seasons.
The Cardinals, a league-worst 3-13 last year, are 3-7-1. But unlike a year ago, they’ve been competitive in most games, their still awful defence notwithstanding.
Five teams have a worse point differential than their minus-69. While the Cards have lost four in a row, they held late leads in the last three games, including both times against the Niners in three- and 10-point losses.
Those who laughed at Kingsbury — wondering how a guy who couldn’t win even half his games over six seasons at Texas Tech before being fired 12 months ago — could succeed at turning around the worst pro franchise.
Well, so far he’s doing it. Murray is sure helping.
I was skeptical that Murray, after only one year of starting in college at Oklahoma, could succeed at all, let alone so quickly. That’s because so few of his big pass plays in college, thanks to head coach and offensive strategist Lincoln Riley’s good schemes, required pinpoint passing to well-covered receivers.
But he has been exceptionally good for a rookie. Already.
For instance, Murray threw four interceptions in his four games, but only one over his last seven. For a rookie? Incredible. That’s against 10 TD passes.
Also, on the season the 22-year-old has completed 65% of his throws, ranks second in the NFL in completions, ninth in yards and ninth in interception percentage.
Arizona has a bye this week, then the schedule doesn’t get much easier to close: vs. L.A. Rams, vs. Pittsburgh, vs. Cleveland, at Seattle, at the Rams.
Five wins might be all they get. But that the team is competitive almost every week, whereas last year the opposite was true, should not go unforgotten at awards time come season’s end.
Good on both Kingsbury and Murray.
All 32 starting QBs, after Sunday games, with last week’s rankings in brackets:
- Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (1). Played Monday night.
- Russell Wilson, Seattle (2). Idle in Week 11.
- Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (3). Idle in Week 11.
- Tom Brady, New England (4). If HE’s that concerned …
- Drew Brees, New Orleans (5). Back on track.
- Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (6). Lamar the star. Just wow.
- Deshaun Watson, Houston (7). Ravens D has found its way.
- Derek Carr, Oakland (8). Completing 72.3% of his throws.
- Dak Prescott, Dallas (14). No longer needs Zeke to sparkle.
- Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (11). Was elite in 20-pt. comeback.
- Matt Ryan, Atlanta (9). Setting up for a strong finish?
- Philip Rivers, LA Chargers (10). Played Monday night.
- Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis (NR). Won with the run vs. Jax.
- Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (12). Pats pressure suffocating.
- Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco (13). 34/45, 4 TDs, 424 yards.
- Kyler Murray, Arizona (15). Rookie keeps on impressing.
- Nick Foles, Jacksonville (16). Blowout loss at Indy not his fault.
- Josh Allen, Buffalo (24). By far his most impressive game yet.
- Sam Darnold, NY Jets (21). Youngster has so much promise.
- Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay (17). 18 interceptions. 18.
- Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee (19). Idle in Week 11.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami (18). Under fire all day vs. blitzes.
- Jared Goff, LA Rams (22). Tasked to throw only 18 times.
- Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (23). 3 straight games without a pick.
- Daniel Jones, NY Giants (25). Idle in Week 11.
- Kyle Allen, Carolina (20). Last 4 games: 3 TDs, 9 INTs.
- Jeff Driskel, Detroit (30). Better than you’d think in 2 games.
- Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago (27). Sixth sub-76 passer rating of ’19.
- Brandon Allen, Denver (28). Lots to admire after two starts.
- Dwayne Haskins, Washington (29). Not ready but may as well play.
- Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh (26). Four INTs before the Garrett-ing.
- Ryan Finley, Cincinnati (32). Tough going on awful Bengals.
Quick thoughts on Week 12 games (all on Sunday unless noted):
Colts at Texans , Thursday, 8:20 ET: No RB Marlon Mack for Indy. Houston D just got carved up by Ravens.
Bucs at Falcons , 1 ET: Hey, Atlanta is 2-0 in division games. Good chance they make it 3-0.
Broncos at Bills , 1 ET: Denver came within a whisker of winning at the Vikings. Good challenge for Josh Allen.
Giants at Bears , 1 ET: If the Giants found a real defence during their bye week they have a chance. If not …
Steelers at Bengals , 1 ET: Dalton vs. Big Ben? Nope. Try Ryan Finley vs. Mason Rudolph. Who wins 10-7?
Dolphins at Browns , 1 ET: What selfish act(s) of non-discipline will embarrass Browns fans this week?
Panthers at Saints , 1 ET: Carolina usually plays well vs. New Orleans. Maybe not this time.
Seahawks at Eagles , 1 ET: Russell vs. Carson, in another big game in Philly.
Raiders at Jets , 1 ET: Do not write off Oakland’s chances of winning the AFC West.
Lions at Redskins , 1 ET: Hey, Jeff Driskel has performed quite well twice now in Stafford’s place.
Jaguars at Titans , 4:05 ET: The other AFC South game. Jags would be done with a loss.
Cowboys at Patriots , 4:25 ET: Dallas couldn’t win at the Jets. Not sure they’re built to beat Belichick discipline.
Packers at 49ers , 8:20 ET: This could be a lot of fun. Green Bay better shore up its run defence.
Ravens at Rams , Monday, 8:15 ET: Maybe the L.A. defence can figure out how to slow down Lamar the star.
BYES: Cardinals, Chiefs, Chargers, Vikings (last ones).
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019