Even if NFL-sanctioned workout is flawed, Colin Kaepernick must show and ball out


The entire concept is suspicious, bizarre and hastily put together. It may very well be a public relations ploy and a trap designed for Colin Kaepernick to fail.

If nothing else, we’ve never seen anything like this. After nearly three years of ignoring Kaepernick, the NFL gave him two hours to agree to a workout this Saturday in Atlanta in front of teams.

Why such a short time to agree? Why Atlanta? Why on Saturday?

And, as Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reports, why did the NFL clue select reporters in that big news was coming on Tuesday, days before it even contacted Kaepernick’s camp about the offer?

Despite all the strangeness, there is one undeniable thing: Kaepernick needs to show up and throw.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Colin Kaepernick last played in the NFL during the 2016 season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

He says he will. His camp says he will. In many ways, he has no choice, which is probably just how the NFL wanted it.

“I’ve been in shape and ready for this for three years,” Kaepernick tweeted. “Can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.”

Well, there is part of the rub, and hopefully not some deal breaker. It is understandable that Kaepernick would prefer shot-callers to be present, namely head coaches and general managers.

That isn’t going to happen. Certainly not in any kind of big numbers.

Head coaches are with their teams and busy preparing for Sunday’s game. They don’t travel to scout during the season. If none went to LSU-Alabama last week, they aren’t coming to this.

General managers? Many of them don't spend Saturdays scouting either. Those that do may not be looking for a quarterback and are focused on a full slate of college games.

Many (or all) of the teams that do come will likely be represented by lower-level front-office types – scouts, analysts, assistants to the assistants. It’s not ideal for Kaepernick, but that’s reality.

His job now is to go and prove he is still capable of playing in the NFL and that he still wants to play in the NFL. Not by having sources say it to the media. And not through social media proclamations about his desire.

It has to be out on the field and then directly in an interview.

Kaepernick made a bold choice in 2016 when he decided to protest racial injustices in the United States by first sitting and later kneeling during the playing of the national anthem. NFL rules allowed it, but doing so meant fans, teams and anyone else could react to his expression with their own expression.

He became a political touchstone – a favorite target of President Donald Trump – and a social icon. Some loved him more. Some hated him more. By the end of the season, where his performance in San Francisco had fallen from his Super Bowl days, he was out of the league.

During the ensuing two-plus seasons, was he one of the best 64 quarterbacks around (starters and backups)? Probably. But teams either colluded against him or deemed that his talents did not outweigh what they considered his issues. That’s how it works.

Ever since he has been begging for a chance.

Well, here it is, as flawed and fishy as it seems. And even if there are reasons to be distrustful of the NFL, it’s the only chance he’s got.

Not going would play perfectly into his critics’ hands ... see, he didn’t really want to play.

Americans subscribe to the ethos that anyone can rise above current circumstances and succeed. Even if it is often a fantasy, it can occur and prevails as a point of national pride. It’s the basis for nearly every successful programming franchise on television – “American Idol,” “America’s Got Talent,” “The Voice.”

This is Kaepernick’s moment. Success is his only option, failure’s not.

No, Bill Belichick isn’t going to be on the sideline. Someone from some franchise will be though. Miami says it’s going. Detroit too. If Kaepernick is as ready as he says, then maybe, just maybe he wins one of them over and it gets run up the flagpole. Video will be available to all 32 teams.

For nearly every player, getting back into the NFL is done under duress. On Mondays and Tuesdays teams fly in unrestricted free agents, throw their jet-lagged bodies on the field and tell them to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot. You either deliver or you head back to the airport.

It’s the system. It isn’t nice. Kaepernick gets to do it all at once and while it isn’t the scripted comfort of a college pro day, he isn’t a college prospect anymore.

He’s scrambling for work and redemption.

Whether he should have to isn’t the point anymore. There is no time to argue about semantics or the job titles of who is and isn’t showing up.

It’s all one more hurdle he has to clear. In the end, talent and production, when great enough, can overcome everything. Kaepernick can’t be better than the worst backup in the league, he has to be better than his perceived negatives.

Fair? There is no fair. This is America. This is the NFL.

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