Alex Smith says it 'doesn't make sense' Colin Kaepernick is out of the NFL

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Ethan Cadeaux
·4 min read
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Alex Smith says it 'doesn't make sense' Kaepernick out of NFL originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Alex Smith saw first-hand how talented Colin Kaepernick is.

In 2012, after suffering a concussion in the middle of what was Smith's best season of his career, he lost his starting job as 49ers quarterback to Kaepernick. The move paid off. Kaepernick would lead San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance while setting several records along the way.

Just a few years after that magical run in 2012, Kaepernick was out of the league. Kaepernick has not played professional football since the 2016 season, something his former teammate still doesn't quite get.

"It still doesn't make sense," Smith said on 10 Questions With Kyle Brandt.

"The run that he went on the last year we were together when we went to the Super Bowl...[it] was so crazy to watch," Smith said. "Truly one of the historic runs in football to see what he was doing. He still holds records from that time period. Really special. It's crazy that fast forward to only a couple of years after that he's out of the league. You couldn't even grasp it. You couldn't understand it."

During the 2016 season, Kaepernick -- along with 49ers teammate Eric Reid and a few others across the NFL -- kneeled during the national anthem as a way to peacefully protest against racial inequality and police brutality in America.

Kaepernick's action clearly rubbed several NFL owners the wrong way. No team has offered Kaepernick a contract, or even invited the quarterback in for a private workout, since he became a free agent following the 2016 season. Other than an aborted workout for scouts in the Atlanta area in 2019, he became persona non grata for NFL teams. 

Kaepernick and Reid filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the two sides settled in February 2019. Reid has since played for another team, the Carolina Panthers, but was a free agent the entire 2020 season.

As for why Kaepernick has not had an NFL job in nearly five years, Smith believes the country "wasn't ready" for a player to publicly call out such issues in America.

"I think it's so tragic looking at it. I think he was ahead of his time, certainly, trying to call out social injustice, especially around police reform," Smith said. "The country wasn't ready. Nobody was ready for it, and he's sitting there trying to tell everybody through a completely peaceful manner about some of the things going on in this country that had been going on for a long time."

"To see the backlash that happened, yeah, it hurts," Smith continued. "The country wasn't ready for it and he suffered the repercussions with his job and then how brave he was. He lost his livelihood."

Five years later, Smith is rightfully still mystified that Kaepernick lost his career for speaking up about social justice issues in America but proud of his former teammate for having the courage to take a stand for what he believes in.

"He was probably one of the guys I felt had the brightest future ahead of him. There was one point, I think it was like Ron Jaworski or whoever, was calling him the greatest quarterback ever from a talent perspective early on in his career," Smith said. 

"Then to think it was all gone two years later because of a peaceful demonstration, [it's] tragic, sad, but obviously he was incredibly brave and [I am] certainly proud of him, to even know him and what he's done," Smith said. "Fast forward a few years later and I think we all were like 'He obviously was trying to tell us something' and knew it."

Asked by Brandt if he felt Kaepernick was political during their time together in San Francisco, Smith said he didn't think so. Rather, the current Washington quarterback emphasized that Kaepernick was both "thoughtful" and "quiet," saying that he was still trying to figure out who he was as a person.

Over the past calendar year, particularly following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd in police custody this past May, we have seen more athletes than ever speak up about social justice and racial inequality.

These issues are the same ones Kaepernick was hoping to raise awareness of when he took a knee for the anthem before the backlash. He was the vanguard of young, African American athletes inspired to take similar public stands no matter the consequences. Now, Smith hopes his former teammate can also be part of the solution.

"To see what's happened this last year and hopefully will continue to happen going forward, you hope that he'll be part of the answer and the solution," Smith said.