Like just about everything that’s characterized the relationship between the NFL and Colin Kaepernick for the last three years, the quarterback’s workout this weekend turned into a master class in misinformation and intrigue.
Initially, it seemed the NFL had put its acrimonious past with the player behind it by extending an olive branch – the opportunity for him to throw for as many of the league’s 32 teams that showed interest. This would apparently serve as Kaepernick’s entrée back into the league.
Little did we know until the actual time for the workout neared that the NFL also demanded Kaepernick sign a waiver protecting itself from lawsuits in case he was injured and additional litigation should Kaepernick decide to file another grievance against the league for continuing collusion.
You’ll remember the NFL has already paid Kaepernick millions in February after the court found it guilty of conspiring to keep him out of the league. And yet, he is still out of a job.
Basically, the NFL was attempting to cover its ass legally by setting up the tryout. They didn’t do it out of any kindness of heart. And Kaepernick saw through it, refused to sign, and moved the site of the workout to another location, a high school field, on Saturday that was free of any league involvement.
“I’ve been ready for three years,” Kaepernick told reporters on Saturday. “I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here. [I] showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.
“We’re out here, we’re ready to play. We’re ready to go anywhere. My agent, Jeff Nalley, is ready to talk [to] any team. I’ll interview with any team at any time. I’ve been ready.”
By deciding to move the workout to a smaller, more remote location, Kaepernick took a risk. Only eight teams – among them the Eagles, Chiefs, Jets, Redskins, 49ers, Lions and Titans – showed up to watch. The number would have been much greater had he complied with the NFL’s conditions.
But in return, Kaepernick got something else that he wanted – media access. The NFL forbade any media from attending the workout. But once it was moved, anyone could show up and that’s exactly what a national contingent did. Kaepernick wanted his story told, wanted anyone who was interested to see him throw.
Kaepernick, 32, threw to four former NFL receivers Brice Butler, Bruce Ellington, Jordan Veasy and Ari Wertz, and, according to reports, seemed to on target with most of his throws. He completed 53 of his 60 passes.
“Look, that’s (whether he is signed) up to them,” Nally said. “Roger Goodell represents the 32 owners, right? And he asked for this workout. Maybe this is Roger’s first step into talking an owner into signing him. Hopefully, that’s the case.”
The NFL was not happy that Kaepernick decided to turn down its invitation. It explained in a release that the waiver it wanted him to sign was essentially a standard one used by all member clubs when they hold tryouts. The league does not want players trying out claiming injury and asking for worker’s compensation.
But that wasn’t the condition that was objected to. It was the one that would shield the league from further litigation if the collusion were to continue. Kaepernick would not, could not, agree to that.
When Kaepernick’s party objected to the terms of the initial waiver sheet, and asked for another, the league rejected it. There’s also a problem with the workout being scheduled in Atlanta on a Saturday.
Knowing most coaches and general managers would be unable to make a Saturday workout because of upcoming games, Nalley asked if it could be held on a Tuesday, which would have been generally more convenient.
Since the impression has always been that if Kaepernick was signed it would be for next season, Nally also wondered why the league wouldn’t agree to hold the workout at the NFL owners meetings in Texas on Dec. 12. The league said no. As a result, the only front office representative at the workout was from the Eagles.
“I think, myself, I think all of you all had questions about it all week,” Nalley said. “Something didn’t smell right. Again, nothing like this has ever happened. Roger Goodell said that the league does not get involved in player workouts, team decisions. So why did they do this? So I think from the beginning it seemed odd. And so that’s why we had to protect him in this whole process.
“And, I’ve got to tell you what, I’ve got to hand it to Colin. He stepped up, showed he’s in shape. I talked to the NFL people out here today. They said his arm talent is elite, that it’s the same as when he came out of college. I even asked them: ‘If you want to get him on a scale, see what he weighs.’ They said, ‘We don’t need to. He looks ripped. He looks in great shape.'”