Colin Kaepernick makes direct appeal for NFL return at Michigan spring game: 'I can help you win games'

·4 min read

Colin Kaepernick made a direct pitch to NFL teams in need of a quarterback on Saturday:

"I can help you win games."

The six-year NFL veteran who hasn't played in the league since 2016 was invited by his old coach Jim Harbaugh to put on a throwing exhibition at Michigan Stadium. With NFL scouts in attendance, Kaepernick showcased his arm at halftime of Michigan's spring game. Afterward, he and Harbaugh shared a hug.

Kaepernick then spoke with local and network media and made a direct appeal for his return to the league. He "absolutely" believes he can still play at an NFL level after a five-year absence from the league.

"Absolutely," Kaepernick told WXYZ Detroit's Jeanna Trotman. "We can still get out there and sling it. Really getting out here today for the exhibition was to be able to show that I can do that. It's one of the questions my agent kept getting. It's been five years. Can he still play?"

Kaepernick said his goal was to earn an NFL roster spot and ultimately win a starting job and a championship. His confidence has not wavered despite his long layoff.

Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh watches as former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick throws during halftime of an NCAA college football intra-squad spring game, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Colin Rand Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick threw for NFL scouts on Sunday at Jim Harbaugh's invitation. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

"I can help make you a better team," Kaepernick said of his message to NFL teams. "I can help you win games.

"I know right now, the situation likely won't allow me to come in and step into a starting role. I know I'll be able to work my way to that though and show that very quickly."

Kaepernick also spoke with the Big Ten Network, reiterating that Saturday was about getting another NFL shot on a big stage.

"Coach Harbaugh, Michigan, the Wolverines against Racism allowed this to happen today," Kaepernick said. "Grateful that this is an opportunity that can lead to that next step and hopefully crack that door open so I can run through it."

Will Kaepernick play in the NFL again?

Harbaugh traded up to draft Kaepernick in 2011 as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. The pair made a Super Bowl together after the 2012 season. Harbaugh has coached Michigan since his parting with the 49ers in 2015 and invited Kaepernick to throw passes Saturday.

Kaepernick hasn't played since 2016 while being effectively blackballed from the NFL over his pregame protests of police brutality and racial injustice. The NFL shifted its public stance on protests in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder at the hands of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell declared in 2020 that "Black lives matter" and "we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."

Kaepernick, who threw for 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions as a dynamic NFL quarterback who averaged 6.1 yards per carry, has remained without a job since Goodell's declaration. He spent time this week around the Michigan team and made a good impression.

'Dude's got a rocket'

"Dude's got a rocket," quarterback Cade McNamara told reporters on Saturday. "He can sling it for sure."

Offensive lineman Olu Oluwatimi said that Kaepernick "lit up the room" and that he has an "electric arm." Running back Blake Corum praised him as somebody "you want to bring around your team."

Multiple quarterbacks have changed teams this offseason, including Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns, Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos and Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. Teams like the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks remain in the market for upgrades at the position with Sam Darnold and Drew Lock sitting atop their respective depth charts.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll confirmed last week that Kaepernick had reached out to the team, but that "conversations have not progressed."