President Trump reprised his attacks on former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, telling supporters in Ky. that ‘they like when people stand for the American flag.’
Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been able to find a new team, but the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback can still drive a national debate.
Catch President Trump’s remarks Monday night?
“It was reported,” Trump said at a rally in Kentucky (while referring to a recent Bleacher Report column), “that NFL owners don’t wanna pick him up because they don’t wanna get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Can you believe that?”
Trump said he felt compelled to share that with Kentuckians “because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag, right?”
What a sign of the times: Trump, an owner in the defunct USFL more than three decades ago, weighing in on NFL free agency.
Of course Kaepernick isn’t just any free agent. Last summer, he began a season-long protest of social injustices by refusing to stand for the national anthem. Now he’s getting bashed by Trump while seemingly paying a price given the virtual radio silence from league teams since he opted out of his contract earlier this month.
No, Kaepernick, 29, is no Joe Montana when it comes to the art of quarterbacking. He completed just 59.2% of his passes last season, and there are questions about his mechanics and abilities as a pocket passer. But in the quarterback-starved NFL, a player who’s recently led a team to the Super Bowl will generally get some type of shot for at least a backup job.
“As a player, I still think he can be great,” a pro personnel director for one team told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday under the condition of anonymity. He did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
“I saw him live (last season) on a day that he had a great game. He was outstanding outside of the pocket.”
The personnel director indicated that he believed Kaepernick would have been a good consideration for his team’s backup job. Likewise, an offensive coordinator for another team contended to USA TODAY Sports that Kaepernick would fit his system, too.
Also, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told ProFootballTalk on Tuesday that teams have sought his opinion of the quarterback who took him to his lone Super Bowl as 49ers coach following the 2012 season. Harbaugh said he’s told teams that Kaepernick “has the ability to be not only an NFL starter, but a great NFL player.”
Yet besides an apparent free agent offer for Kaepernick that new 49ers general manager John Lynch said “fell through,” the polarizing quarterback’s name hasn’t been publicly linked to any other opportunities.
Given the furor that surrounded Kaepernick last season, which inspired other players to execute their own constitutional protests, it’s hardly a stretch to think that he’s been automatically scratched in some places. There’s a sense among some in the NFL that there are several coaches who might consider signing Kaepernick, only to have owners and/or executives object.
“If people are not taking him because he took a stance, then what is the NFL becoming?” Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott told USA TODAY Sports. “You look at guys like Jim Brown and others over the years who took stances to try to help the community. Colin took a stance that there’s a community at large that needed somebody to try to bring awareness to some issues.”
Lott doesn’t jump to the conclusion that Kaepernick has been blackballed, though. And despite the deal that apparently fell through, he points to financial expectations as a potential factor. Yet he doesn’t deny that Kaepernick’s social agenda — despite an ESPN report that he intends to stand for the anthem moving forward — is likely part of the equation.
“Owners have their rights, too,” Lott said. “They can have the type of players they want. But the bigger question is assessing who can help you win.”
And that’s also a fair question for an inconsistent player who went 1-10 last season, albeit for a poor Niners team. Then again, Kaepernick’s 90.7 passer rating in 2016 was better than those of Tyrod Taylor, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Jameis Winston, Joe Flacco and Cam Newton.
And it’s still early. Organized workouts are still weeks away, and the draft looms as another chance for teams to address personnel needs.
Still, a quarterback who’s demonstrated the flashes and gifts that Kaepernick has almost always gets another shot. Of course, most quarterbacks don’t draw presidential attention, either.
Harbaugh wasn’t crazy about Kaepernick taking a knee during the anthem. But he respects him enough to not hold it against him when assessing the player’s potential. As Harbaugh put it to PFT, “He’ll have a great career and be a great quarterback, win championships.”
But first he needs another opportunity.
Follow NFL columnist Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell
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