ATLANTA (CBS46) – Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a big step Saturday in his attempt at an NFL comeback when he works out at an NFL-organized event at the Atlanta Falcons facility in Flowery Branch.
Around 3 p.m. on Saturday, NFL officials announced that Kaepernick was no longer going to work out at Flowery Branch. Instead Kaepernick is headed to Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale.
The combine-style workout was quickly announced this week for Saturday morning. Some pundits said it was a public relations stunt by the NFL. Former NFL receiver Jimmy Farris told CBS46.com, even if it is a PR stunt, it could yield some good results for Kaepernick and any team that is interested in signing the former Super Bowl quarterback.
“It gives some of the teams who may or may not have been interested in him, it gives them some cover to take him “out on a date” without having to deal with the backlash for bringing him in,” Farris said. “Now they get to take a look at him and not face backlash, see if he is in shape, see if he can still play. See if he can help in the back half of the season.”
Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016 when he decided to silently protest police mistreatment of minorities by kneeling during the national anthem. As the 49ers season went downhill in 2016, Kaepernick was eventually replaced by Blaine Gabbert.
Still, Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl during his time there and finished his career in San Francisco with 72 touchdowns, 30 interceptions, and over 12,000 yards passing. He also put up a record of 4-2 in six playoff starts, better than many of the current quarterbacks playing in the NFL right now.
“He can play football,” Farris said. “He can help some of the teams in the league right now that are struggling at the quarterback position.”
But, the largest issue facing Kaepernick is not necessarily about football. He’s become a polarizing figure in both the sports and political worlds due to his silent protest. He’s drawn support from a wide range of players, causes, and others; but he’s also drawn scorn from some on the political right and from President Trump himself.
“I think there have been a lot of teams that would have at least brought him in for a workout, but didn’t want to deal with the media backlash,” Farris said.
Only one team even brought Kaepernick in for an interview after he opted out of his contract at the end of the 2016 season, the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks opted not to work Kaepernick out and he’s been out of football since then. He sued the NFL alleging collusion to keep him out of the league, but eventually ended his case with the league in an undisclosed settlement.
The league has said multiple teams will have representatives at the workout and question/answer session he will have Saturday. Expectations are that no team will have a coach or general manager at the workout because of Sunday’s games. The NFL said video of both the workout and the interviews will be made available to all 32 teams in the league.
And if an NFL team is ready to take a chance on the former Super Bowl quarterback and sign him, both sides must know there is a lot of work to do. Farris said the biggest thing Kaepernick will have to work on is moving from being in top physical shape to being in top game shape, and there is a big difference between the two.
“There will be a lot of work to be done for his timing, accuracy, all the things that are important to a quarterback,” Farris said. “And, he’s going to have to come in and learn an offense on the fly.”
Another red flag that some have placed on Kaepernick in the past is that he’s a “system quarterback.” In this context, the argument is he’s not the best fit into a more traditional passing attack that doesn’t utilize his running ability. It’s an argument that has been turned on its head this season as Lamar Jackson of the Ravens runs all over defenses. Farris said that kind of criticism of Kaepernick is just lazy.
“That’s something people go to when they don’t’ know how to accurately describe what they are seeing,” Farris said. “He has a unique combination of that running ability that you are seeing from Lamar Jackson and whether people like it or not, look at the stats when the 49ers were good. Is he Drew Brees or Tom Brady, no. But he has the ability that a lot of teams look for right now.”
If Kaepernick looks good in his workout, the natural question is what team might end up with Kaepernick on the roster. As always, there are a plethora of teams in the NFL that need a quarterback that can lead on and off the field. Farris said two teams really stick out to him as a solid landing spot for Kaepernick.
“I think (Buccaneers head coach) Bruce Arians is the type of guy that can give Kaepernick the TLC he’s going to need,” Farris said. “Where I like is in Cincinnati. Young head coach, not married to old slogans and old ideologies, Zac Taylor, a guy like that who is 0-9. No one will expect much from them next year. Coaches love to be challenged. I think it’s a perfect opportunity for a young head coach like Zac Taylor, bring him in, get him acclimated to your system and culture, and then see what you got.”
While it remains to be seen if Kaepernick’s workout will be successful or if a team will finally sign him to a contract; Farris said there’s one thing Kaepernick has from players in locker rooms across the National Football League that will help him in any situation.
“There is a universal respect for him as a man inside NFL locker rooms. That goes a long way,” Farris told CBS46.com. “He’s shown the quality of a leader. He’s the type of guy you can bring into a locker room and not have problems.”