NFL free agent Colin Kaepernick reportedly showed a strong arm and solid conditioning at his recent workout with the Las Vegas Raiders, but that doesn’t mean his five-year absence from football is coming to an end.
As of Thursday evening, no deal was imminent between the controversial quarterback and the AFC West club, sources told ESPN.
The Raiders were receptive to Kaepernick and one source described the workout as a ‘positive.’ If he were to be signed, Kaepernick would presumably become a backup to starting Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
First-year Raiders coach Josh McDaniels shied away from answering questions about the tryout, saying he would only comment on players who are currently signed with Las Vegas.
‘We’ve brought in tons of people for workouts,’ McDaniels told reporters Thursday. ‘We said it from day one that we would look at every opportunity, and he’s not the first player that we looked at and not the last one.’
‘So there’s gonna be a lot of people that are gonna come in and out of this building and have an opportunity to make an impression,’ the coach added. ‘The evaluations we make are kind of private for us and if we make a decision to add someone to the team then we’ll do it.’
ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke news earlier this week that the 34-year-old Kaepernick had a tryout with the Raiders Wednesday. That workout was his first meeting with a team since speaking with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, according to ESPN.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, when he ignited a nationwide free speech debate by protesting racist police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem before games.
Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws during halftime of an NCAA college football intrasquad spring game at Michigan, on April 2 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This week, Kaepernick worked out for the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, although no deal is imminent, according to ESPN
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, when he ignited a nationwide free speech debate by kneeling during the national anthem before games to protest discrimination and racist police brutality
Raiders owner Mark Davis (pictured) told ESPN in 2020 that he would give his ‘blessing’ to his front office if the football operations staff wanted to acquire Kaepernick
The Raiders currently have a starting quarterback in the 31-year-old Carr, who is committed through the 2025 season thanks to a three-year, $121 million extension. However, the Raiders could use the veteran Kaepernick as a reliable backup given his experience guiding the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII in February of 2013.
Kaepernick will have competition for the Raiders’ backup job. Las Vegas recently acquired quarterback Jarrett Stidham from New England, where he worked with McDaniels, the now-former Patriots offensive coordinator.
Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN in 2020 that he would give his ‘blessing’ to his front office if the football operations staff wanted to acquire Kaepernick. Davis’s late father, Al, was passionate about civil rights and hired the NFL’s first African-American and Latino head coaches in Art Shell and Tom Flores, respectively.
Kaepernick is no stranger to the region, having starred at the University of Nevada, Reno before being drafted by San Francisco in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. In his senior season, Kaepernick guided the Wolf Pack to a 13-1 record and a win over Boston College in the Fight Hunger Bowl to finish 11th in the country.
After that, Kaepernick posted a respectable 88.9 quarterback rating over six NFL seasons while accumulating 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns through the air. Most significantly, the 49ers reached three consecutive NFC title games with Kaepernick under center.
COLIN KAEPERNICK CAREER TIMELINE
- 2011 – San Francisco 49ers take him with the 36th-overall pick of the NFL Draft
- 2011 – Makes debut for 49ers, playing three games
- 2012 – Becomes starting quarterback midway through season. Later sets an NFL postseason record for a quarterback by rushing for 163 yards in a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. Also leads 49ers to the Super Bowl, where they lose to Baltimore Ravens
- 2013 – Guides the 49ers to another strong season as they reach NFC Championship game, before losing to Seattle Seahawks
- 2014 – Plays 16 games
- 2015 – Plays nine games, amid a string of injuries
- 2016 – Begins kneeling during pre-game playing of US national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, the first and most prominent of dozens of NFL players to do so during season
- 2016 – Plays 12 games for 49ers, but is told by the incoming coaching staff that he will no longer be needed
- 2017 – Opts out of final year of contract in anticipation of his release and becomes free agent. He is not picked up by any other team
- 2017 – Files a grievance against the NFL, accusing all 32 team owners of colluding to blackball him from the league in retaliation for the controversial protests
- 2018 – NFL enacts a new rule banning players from protesting during the anthem before ultimately retracting the decision because of its divisiveness
- 2018 – Stars in controversial Nike commercial released at the start of NFL season
- 2019 – NFL schedules tryout for Kaepernick in Atlanta, but the sides disagreed on several aspects of the workout, leading to a late change of location and lower attendance by scouts
Kaepernick was later benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert in 2015 before ultimately reclaiming the starting job in 2016, but 49ers went just 1-10 with him under center.
He opted out of his contact in anticipation of his release in March of 2017 and has gone unsigned since.
In 2019, Kaepernick settled a grievance with the NFL for an undisclosed amount after accusing owners of blackballing him in retaliation for the controversial protests.
He has been training in hopes of an NFL return, while continuing to raise money for his charity, the Know Your Rights Camp, as well as other entrepreneurial and charitable endeavors.
Although Kaepernick remains an NFL pariah, commissioner Roger Goodell admitted in June of 2021 that the league should have listened to players’ concerns about racism sooner, adding that he encouraged teams to sign the former 49ers star.
The league did orchestrate a tryout for Kaepernick in 2019, but that was scuttled after he took issue with the liability waiver the NFL asked him to sign.
Sports Illustrated obtained a copy of the NFL’s waiver, and according to a piece on SI.com by attorney Michael McCann, the league was effectively asking Kaepernick to sign away his right to sue teams in the future, regardless of whether or not they participated in collusion.
He ultimately arranged for his own workout for a handful of teams instead.
Although Kaepernick was reportedly in great shape and showed good arm strength, he did not receive any offers from NFL teams, despite his experience guiding the 49ers to three NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance.
Despite that, he sill remained hopeful for an NFL comeback.
‘My desire to play football is still there,’ Kaepernick told USA Today in 2020. ‘I still train five days a week. I’m ready to go, I’m ready for a phone call, tryout, workout at any point in time. I’m still waiting on the owners and their partners to stop running from this situation. So I hope I get a call this offseason. I’ll be looking forward to it.’
The Los Angeles Chargers were keeping tabs on Kaepernick in 2020, according to then-coach Anthony Lynn, who described the embattled quarterback as a good ‘fit’ for his offense.
‘It would be crazy to not have him on your workout list,’ Lynn said at the time.
Lynn said that while he hadn’t spoken with Kaepernick, he ‘fits the style of quarterback for the system that we’re going to be running. I’m very confident and happy with the three quarterbacks that I have but you can never have too many people waiting on the runway.’
‘It would be something I think any team would have to explore with a talent of that caliber that is available under these circumstances,’ Lynn continued.
‘I know he has a high IQ at the position. It comes down to physical shape and his ability to do what he does. You can figure out real quick where he is in his career after an intense workout.’
Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick participates in a workout for NFL football scouts and media, Saturday, November 16, 2019, in Riverdale, Georgia
Many around the NFL have become more open to his message since Kaepernick last played in the league.
In a scene from retired NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho’s 2020 web series ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,’ Goodell was given a chance to voice a public apology to Kaepernick.
‘We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue,’ Goodell told Acho. ‘I wish we had the benefit of that. We never did. And we would’ve benefited from that, absolutely.’
Goodell previously acknowledged that the NFL should have listened to its players’ concerns following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody two years ago.
‘That’s where we should have listened sooner,’ Goodell reiterated to Acho. ‘And that’s where we should have been in there with them, understanding and figuring out what we can do as the NFL.’
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league should have ‘listened earlier’ to Colin Kaepernick and other players who protested racism by kneeling during the national anthem
The protests began with Kaepernick in 2016 as a way to address inequality and racist police brutality. Hundreds of players have followed by kneeling, sitting, or raising a fist during The Star-Spangled Banner, even as Kaepernick has remained unsigned since March of 2017.
Although Goodell attempted to implement a rule requiring players to stand for the anthem, he ultimately relented, and players have continued demonstrating amid intense criticism from fans and even some owners.
While tensions over the protests simmered throughout the 2016 season, they boiled over in 2017 when President Donald Trump seized upon the issue at a rally in Alabama. In the months that followed, Trump continued deriding the protests as unpatriotic, going so far as to refer to demonstrators as ‘sons of b****es.’
In speaking with Acho, Goodell stressed that the demonstrations are not unpatriotic, but rather have been mischaracterized by critics.
‘These are not people who are unpatriotic. They’re not disloyal. They’re not against our military,’ Goodell said. ‘In fact, many of those guys were in the military, and they’re a military family. And what they were trying to do is exercise their right to bring attention to something that needs to get fixed. And that misrepresentation of who they were and what they were doing was the thing that really gnawed at me.’