An in-depth primer for Colin Kaepernick’s Saturday workout for NFL teams
What the NFL is conducting Saturday at the Atlanta Falcons facility is without precedent. Colin Kaepernick, who was given no notice and hours to agree to terms, will work out this weekend for representatives from an undetermined number of NFL teams in a private event funded and arranged by the league.
By now, even non-football fans know Kaepernick’s story and that he has been out of the league since the end of the 2016 season. Some consider this to be Kaepernick’s best chance to get another shot in the NFL. Others, like his friend Eric Reid of the Carolina Panthers, have labeled this a “PR stunt” by the league.
This weekend’s workout offers a set of unique challenges for Kaepernick and teams who wish to attend. Though it’s being styled as pro day for the veteran quarterback, the inherent differences in an event planned months in advance and done in a similar fashion across every school in the nation and this Kaepernick workout can’t be ignored.
Here are a few of the issues facing those involved this weekend in an FAQ-like form.
Why this Saturday?
What a great question! The fact is there is no good day 11 weeks into the NFL season. Tuesdays are typically off days in the league for teams having played the Sunday before with a Sunday game the following week, but teams are also hosting various tryout players at their own facilities for any number of different positions for this season or in the future. Head coaches and position coaches can be involved with that and in game-planning for the next opponent. Assembling 32 GMs and head coaches in a centralized location on any day during the season isn’t possible.
Saturday is also not great. It’s hard to imagine coaches leaving their teams at the hotel the day before the game to travel to Flowery Branch, Ga., for this workout. GMs could—and may—but that would also involve changing their plans on short notice. It stands to reason some general managers had plans to attend a college football game that day, perhaps even the Georgia-Auburn tilt just hours south at Auburn.
Why not have a little more lead time?
As one scout said to me Wednesday, this league never does anything last minute. This is unprecedented, and Andrew Brandt correctly points out this could open a Pandora’s Box for players out of the league looking for the NFL to help them with their second chance.
Truthfully, though, Kaepernick is getting more notice for his workout than most out-of-work players. You know the drill: let’s say a team’s kicker struggles again on a Sunday. By Monday or Tuesday at the very latest, there’s a group of kickers in town working out for the team.
But the lack of heads up also hurts teams who wish to attend. At least, that’s what they’re saying. By Wednesday night, some team executives had reportedly already reached out to Kaepernick’s team telling them they wouldn’t be able to staff the workout.
Who’s he going to throw to?
The details of how exactly this thing is going to go down are unclear. Will his trainer lead the workout? A quarterbacks coach? Perhaps a former quarterback who’s now a scout sent to this workout?
The same questions exist about his targets, and here’s where there could be an issue of timing. Can the men he typically throws to in his workouts also be there? Will he need to assemble a group of street free agents in the Atlanta area, something that could be done with relative ease? No matter, Kaepernick would want clarity on that quickly and field his group as soon as possible to work on timing.
What NFL teams will be in attendance?
Although not every NFL team who will be in attendance has been publicly reported just yet, there have been several reports that have already surfaced regarding which teams will be there. The Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, New England Patriots, and Washington Redskins will all reportedly be in attendance. For more information on which teams will be there,
What’s the point of measuring and timing him?
Other than to truly give this the feel of the combine or a pro day, I see no reason to do anything more than weighing Kaepernick. He’s still the same height and his hands are still the same size.
You may ask, “Has he lost a step?” It’s probable that Kaepernick, who ran a 4.53-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 NFL combine after weeks of training, would not be able to run that same time on Saturday, two weeks after his 32nd birthday with four full days to prepare.
Then you may ask, “is it not important to see what his 40 is today?” No, it’s not. Save for that million-dollar gimmick this past summer, most NFL players haven’t been asked to run the 40-yard dash since they were in Under Armour tights at the NFL combine. Same with the three-cone and the vertical and everything else. This step in the process seems unnecessary.
Who will lead the workout?
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson will lead the drills during Kaepernick’s workout. Former Miami Dolphins head coach to help, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson.
Does it matter who’s there?
Not exactly. At this point we all should be able to drop any pretense and understand there’s a PR element here. Yes, this workout is closed to the media, but it’s well understood that — at the very least — a list of who showed up will get leaked.
If all 32 teams show up, no problem. But what if you’re the one that doesn’t? Well, you better have an excuse better than “we didn’t have enough time to plan to send anyone.” A team that has a viable starter and backup quarterback can easily say, “We’re set at that position” whether they mean it or not.
If a team is not represented Saturday, that team’s head coach is bound to be asked about it by his local media either after his Week 11 game or the following Monday. Truly, is that what someone wants to deal with?
If a team is interested, they’ll send someone. If a team isn’t interested (for whatever reasons), they may still send someone to avoid any future headache.
But it should be noted that quarterback is the most important position on the field and in all of sports. Teams regularly say they’re constantly evaluating their roster and available players. It would go against conventional wisdom — and run counter to the stated goal of the program — to not put a good-faith effort into going to this workout.
How important is the interview?
Again, let’s drop the pretense. The interview is vital. Outside of proving his continued ability to be a capable quarterback in this league (and that won’t be hard), the most important things to decision-makers in this league is, in no order, 1) Will he continue to protest racial inequality, social injustice and police brutality during the playing of the national anthem and 2) How much, or little, would he be willing to sign for?
There’s a 15-minute interview portion starting at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, just after the orientation and just before the measurements. Even if every question could get answered in that time, it’s hard to imagine every question will be asked. Remember, there will be leaks. There will be representatives from various teams, possibly league reps and definitely members of Kaepernick’s team.
So will Team X want to ask either of those questions — or other hot topics — in that setting? The threat of an NFL insider tweeting “Team X asked Colin Kaepernick if he’d continue kneeling during the national anthem” to the world is enough to scare someone away. So, naturally, you’d ask after the workout in a private setting.
But as mentioned above, the majority of people sent here won’t be decision makers. In a very basic sense, they will be middlemen conveying this message to those who make the calls. Is it in Kaepernick’s best interest to have these important discussions with someone other than a team owner or general manager?
These are complex, nuanced discussions to be had. If Kaepernick ever plays again, he surely would do so after having long talks with the head coach, general manager and team owner. Those talks would be had with the benefit of privacy, which is something that effectively won’t and can’t be afforded here.
From the moment the news broke of the Saturday workout, it was clear this wasn’t going to be perfect. This is important for Kaepernick, and some of these natural issues are unfortunately outside of his control.
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