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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Before Colin Kaepernick does his first stretch, before he runs his first sprint, and before he throws his first pass at Saturday’s NFL workout in Atlanta, there’s likely only one thing that matters and renders everything else moot. How he answers will outweigh his size, conditioning, and arm strength.

Can he still play? That has never been an issue … unless you’re intellectually lazy and dishonest. Judging by the number of uninspiring-to-awful quarterbacks on NFL rosters, ability isn’t a prerequisite, but Kaepernick has plenty.


No, the main question on everyone’s mind Saturday will be the same question on everyone’s mind since Kaepernick took his last snap.

Will he still kneel?

That always has been the most important consideration for NFL teams and nothing in that regard has changed.

The wrong response will ensure his continued unemployment.

I believe Kaepernick will give the answer that teams are looking for, allowing them to assess his potential impact minus off-field considerations. If so, given the fact he reportedly has worked out five days a week for the last three years, several teams should be ready to sign him immediately.

However, something about the process seems suspect. It feels like the NFL is setting him up, as opposed to offering him a hand up.

According to reports, the NFL proposed the Saturday workout to Kaepernick’s representatives on Tuesday and gave them two hours to accept or decline.

When the reps asked if the workout could be rescheduled for a Tuesday — the day most NFL players are off and most free agents are brought in for workouts — the league said no. Asked if the session could be pushed back to the following Saturday, Nov. 23, so teams would have more time to plan and prepare to be in Atlanta, the league again said the answer was no.

You have to wonder about the rush. Kaepernick and NFL teams were given only 96 hours’ notice for an event with no deadline. You have to wonder about the choice of day. Coaches and general managers are busy with game preparation and college scouting on most Saturdays, making their presence in Atlanta unlikely.

You also have to wonder about the intent. Whether the workout represents a legitimate shot or is merely a sham, the NFL scored a public relations victory by extending the offer.

Be cautious before hailing the league for an unprecedented act, giving a single player his very own showcase and inviting every team to attend. NFL history has taught us that appearances can be deceiving and self-perceptions can be compelling.

This is the same organization that accepted millions of dollars for patriotic displays; enacted a disinformation campaign as concussion science advance; and initially issued a two-game suspension to former Baltimore halfback Ray Rice

So, yes, a healthy dose of skepticism is warranted and the league brought it on itself.

Doubts could’ve dissipated if the NFL was less clandestine and more flexible. There was no good reason for an abrupt announcement, springing the idea on teams and Kaepernick virtually simultaneously. Did Roger Goodell wake up on Tuesday with an epiphany? “You know, we’ve really been unfair to Kaepernick and we should organize something for him this weekend!”

Perhaps Goodell was inspired by last month’s news release from Kaepernick’s reps, what they described as “facts to address the false narratives” regarding their client. “I have reached out to all 32 teams about Colin’s employment, with little to no response from teams about an opportunity for Colin,” agent Jeffrey Nally wrote. “In 25 years, I have never seen anything like it.”

I’m sure NFL lawyers would concur. They’re no dummies. They know Kaepernick’s continued unemployment with nary a sniff from suitors is impossible to defend.

If the quarterback filed a second lawsuit claiming collusion — arguing that the earlier settlement only hardened the league’s heart against him — you’d have to like his chances.

Trying to right a wrong?

Or fear of further litigation?

Which sounds more plausible in explaining the NFL’s motivation for this hurried and unforeseen pro day?

Maybe justice will prevail anyway. Teams might be emboldened, granted cover for interest that might’ve existed but wasn’t acted upon prior to this sanctioned event.

Nally said “not a single team has brought Colin in for a workout” and only Seattle brought him in for a visit. Now, at least ostensibly, Kaepernick is auditioning for each of the 32 franchises, including the Washington Redskins, who will have a scout on hand..

Those that don’t send representatives to Atlanta will have access to video of the workout and interview. They might want to fast forward to the part where Kaepernick addresses the herd of elephants parading through the house.

Will he still kneel?

I suspect he will move on from that particular form of protest. But here’s my question for NFL teams that clearly could use Kaepernick:

Are you finally ready to stand?

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


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