Colin Kaepernick Didn’t Trust the NFL’s Workout, So He Held His Own
Colin Kaepernick conducted his first workout in front of NFL teams as a free agent on Saturday, and he did it on his terms.
Five days ago, league officials asked Kaepernick whether he would attend a hastily organized workout at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility on Saturday that all 32 teams would be allowed to attend.
But Kaepernick and league officials could not agree on the paperwork he would have to sign to participate nor who would be allowed to tape the session, so the former 49ers quarterback instead invited teams and reporters to watch him throw at a nearby high school.
According to Kaepernick’s representatives, NFL officials wanted him to sign a waiver absolving the league of any responsibility in case he got injured (standard practice for these workouts) that also reportedly stated Kaepernick could not sue the league in case he did not get signed after the workout (not standard at all). Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, a former labor lawyer in West Virginia, wrote that the league was trying to put Kaepernick in a “legal checkmate.” Kaepernick’s representatives and the league disputed the waiver situation in dueling statements released Saturday. According to a statement from Kaepernick’s agent Jeff Nally and attorney Ben Meiselas that called the NFL’s process “illegitimate,” Kaepernick requested to sign the standard injury waiver, but the league refused. The NFL’s said it sent Kaepernick’s representatives a standard liability waiver and then received back a version “completely rewritten and insufficient.”
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The second issue that caused Kaepernick to skip the league’s workout was who could film it. Kaepernick and the NFL initially agreed that no reporters would be allowed at the Falcons facility, according to ESPN’s Howard Bryant.
On Friday, league officials reportedly told Kaepernick’s inner circle they would not be allowed to film the session. Only the Atlanta Falcons staff would be allowed to film, and they would distribute tape to the 32 teams.
Kaepernick and his advisers were concerned the league could edit the footage to highlight his worst throws, according to Bryant.
“The biggest thing with everything today was making sure we had transparency in what went on,” Kaepernick told reporters afterward.
Reporters attended. Most team personnel that were at the Falcons facility did not. While 25 teams had representatives at the original location, just eight made the trip to Charles R. Drew High School, according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.
The school is roughly an hour away from the Falcons facility, which is a different location than the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s also just 20 minutes from the airport, where many reporters and scouts in attendance were heading afterward.
The abrupt change caused confusion for at least one scout: the Broncos Jordan Dizon, who was already on the field at the Falcons facility when he received word of the venue change. He was unable to make the Kaepernick-organized workout before his flight to Miami to scout the Bills-Dolphins game.
The travel concerns for scouts who were attending other games was a major reason the league’s choice to hold the workout on a Saturday was strange.
“I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years,” Kaepernick told reporters after his workout. “We all know why I came out here and showed you today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.”
Donning a shirt with the name “Kunta Kinte” on the front, Kaepernick demonstrated all of the arm strength and accuracy he showed on the San Francisco 49ers, but the football activities were the least important part of the day.
Kaepernick throwing without defenders or pads for a half hour was never going to move the needle for team executives. If they want to see him play, they have the football version of his résumé: the tape of him in 58 starts for San Francisco across five years.
The most important part of Saturday would not have been throwing to receivers against air, but teams’ ability to interview him face-to-face.
After his workout, Kaepernick thanked scouts for attending and said, “When you go back, tell your owners to stop being scared,” according to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue.
While the workout could not determine how Kaepernick would perform against NFL defenses, it did confirm he has a strong arm.
“We already knew Colin’s arm talent was elite,” Eric Reid, Kaepernick’s former teammate who protested with him in 2016 and was present at the workout, tweeted Saturday. “Some doubted and now you have proof. Also, transparency is important. There’s no way we would allow the @NFL to control the narrative of Colin’s workout by not allowing media presence! Not to mention that dubious waiver.”
Even before Saturday’s scheduling fiasco happened, the workout was borderline unprecedented. League executives contacted Kaepernick on Tuesday asking whether he would be available for a workout in Atlanta on Saturday.
The league gave Kaepernick just two hours to confirm his attendance and refused his request to move the date to a Tuesday, when teams usually schedule workouts, according to The Ringer’s Tyler Tynes. Teams host players for workouts often. But league executives, not team executives, organizing a workout for a single player on five days notice is unheard of.
Their unusual request invited a laundry list of questions about why league executives were contacting Kaepernick for the first time since February, when the quarterback and Reid settled their grievances against the NFL alleging teams colluded to make sure they weren’t signed. Few details about the workout were shared with Kaepernick before the league’s deadline.
That included who would be catching his passes, so Kaepernick organized receivers to attend the workout in Atlanta and reportedly paid for their flights.
“The league wouldn’t answer why it was suddenly making the offer,” Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reported on Tuesday. “It wouldn’t say who came up with the idea. It wouldn’t say who would attend. And it wouldn’t say why the workout was roughly 96 hours away and on a Saturday when most NFL teams were preparing for a game.”
Robinson also reported that the week before league officials contacted Kaepernick, they called a “select group of reporters” and told them news would break on Tuesday.
Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid kneeled in protest of police brutality and racial inequality during the national anthem throughout the 2016 season.
Kaepernick has been the league since March 2017, when the 49ers informed him they were going to release him rather than pay his $16.9 million salary. Kaepernick opted his contract in March 2017 to get a jumpstart on finding a new team in free agency.
Kaepernick had not been invited to a single on-field workout, the NFL version of a job interview, until this week.
Kaepernick and Reid—one of the top safeties in the 2018 free-agent class who waited months before eventually signing with the Carolina Panthers—settled their collusion grievance filed under the NFL collective bargaining agreement for an undisclosed sum in February. The terms are not publicly known, but clearly it did not include barring Kaepernick from playing again. League officials may have organized the workout hoping to pour water on Kaepernick’s fire, but they seem to have only stoked the flames.
“We will continue to give you updates as we hear,” Kaepernick told reporters. “We will be waiting to hear from Roger Goodell, the NFL, the 32 teams. We’ll let you know if we hear from them. The ball is in their court. We’re ready to go.”
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