Colin Kaepernick may have thrown his last pass in the NFL.
A week after a hastily arranged workout on the NFL’s terms turned into a hastily changed workout on Kaepernick’s terms, the former 49ers quarterback appears no closer to playing again for the first time since the end of the 2016 season.
There have been no follow-up workouts for individual teams, which means his chances for playing this season dwindle with just six weeks left in the regular season. There is a continued reluctance for teams to deal with Kaepernick, for fear that his desire to draw attention to racial injustice and police brutality would create too many distractions.
The protests during the national anthem that Kaepernick spurred in 2016, as well as the NFL’s clumsy handling of the situation, enraged a large segment of the fan base and created significant downward pressure on television ratings. The league has largely recovered from the public relations fallout, and ratings are up this year. Not only that, but team owners and a players’ coalition have also forged multi-million-dollar commitments to addressing the very issues that Kaepernick brought up with his protests.
But there remains a reluctance to have Kaepernick himself back in the league, for fear that he will reignite controversy and create similar problems the league would rather avoid.
Kaepernick didn’t help himself by declining to work out for the 25 teams that sent scouts to the Falcons’ practice facility last Saturday. He felt skittish about language in a waiver that would protect the league from further litigation after Kaepernick and the NFL had previously settled a collusion grievance. So, he ditched the workout and moved it to a local high school, allowing the media to attend. Only eight teams, including the Jets, sent scouts.
“I've been ready for three years,'' Kaepernick said after the 40-minute workout. “I've been denied for three years … We have nothing to hide. So, we're waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.”
Kaepernick was questioned by many observers about whether he truly wants to play again, or whether his bigger priority is to continue the conversation about the causes that mean most to him. By directly challenging the league to “stop running from the truth,” he may have alienated the people who are in position to offer him an opportunity to play again.
So far, no one seems willing to take that chance.
I’d be surprised if that changes.
History in the making
Frank Gore came into the NFL with questions about his durability, especially after suffering two ACL injuries at Miami. As a rookie with the 49ers in 2005, he had both shoulders surgically repaired.
He turned into a survivor, though, and Gore is now on the verge of moving into third place – ahead of the great Barry Sanders – in all-time rushing yards. Now with the Bills, Gore needs 46 rushing yards in Sunday’s game against the Broncos to move past the Lions’ Hall of Famer, who finished with 15,269 yards. Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith is first with 18,355 yards and Bears Hall of Famer Walter Payton is next with 16,726.
Best celebration ever?
Colts guard Quenton Nelson last Sunday became a legend to every NFL offensive lineman, past or present.
During the Colts’ 33-13 win over the Jaguars in Indianapolis, Nelson lined up in the backfield on third-and-goal from the 1. He got the handoff and drove toward the end zone, with officials initially signaling a touchdown. Moments later, his fellow offensive linemen gathered around him and hoisted Nelson up by the legs, with the guard acting as if he were drinking from a beer keg. It was quickly dubbed the “Keg Stand Celebration.”
“When I saw it, it was like, ‘Hell yeah, that’s rowdy,’ ” Giants guard Will Hernandez said. “I like it. I love it.”
Hernandez, who got to know Nelson at the 2018 Scouting Combine, offered congratulations to his fellow guard on social media.
“I told him I loved the celebration,” Hernandez said. “Not only would that be every lineman’s dream to get the ball, but to get a celebration in like that, it would be awesome.”
Are you listening, Pat Shurmur?
Tua’s uncertain future
Alabama’s star quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, was widely expected to enter the 2020 draft and possibly become the No. 1 overall pick. But a hip injury that ended his season and required surgery may impact his plans.
“I don’t know if he’s going to leave [Alabama] or not,” said Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, a former Alabama teammate of Tagovailoa. “I’m just hoping he gets better. I spoke to him, and he sounded OK.”
The Raiders were widely criticized for trading elite pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears before the 2018 season. But coach Jon Gruden ended up with another quality pass rusher in rookie Maxx Crosby, a fourth-round pick out of Eastern Michigan in this year’s draft.
Crosby had four sacks in the Raiders’ 17-10 win over the Bengals last week. He’s just the fourth rookie in NFL history to have that many sacks in a game, joining Leslie O’Neal, who had five in a 1986 game, Cornelius Bennett (four in 1987) and Brian Orakpo (four in 2009).
Jacksonville’s Josh Allen, the Jaguars’ first-round pick this year, has eight sacks in 10 games and is on pace to finish with 13. The NFL record for most sacks by a rookie is held by former Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse (14.5).
Winning traditions in Dallas and New England
Bill Belichick’s Patriots assured themselves of a 19th straight winning season, just an incredible accomplishment in any era. The only other team to have more: the Tom Landry-coached Cowboys, who racked up 20 straight winning seasons between 1966 and 1985.
Fitting, then, that the Patriots and Cowboys play one another on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
“When you talk about winning teams, you’re talking about a lot of good players,” Belichick said. “Very, very talented players. You can go back to the 70’s the 80’s. The [Cowboys] have got a number of guys in the Hall of Fame, got a number of great players from all those years. You’ve got some great players on this team that are going to be, I’d say already amongst the top at their position in the league now.”
Gut-check time for 49ers
At 9-1, the 49ers are off to their best start since going 10-0 in 1990, but their schedule gets far more challenging, starting with Sunday night’s matchup against the Packers at Levi’s Stadium. Their final five opponents: Ravens, Saints, Falcons, Rams and Seahawks.
It’s Lamar Jackson’s world
Second-year quarterback Lamar Jackson, fresh off a dominant performance in the Ravens’ 41-7 win over the Texans last week, faces the Rams on Monday night as the Ravens bring the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense to the Coliseum.
With 2,038 rushing yards through the first 10 games, the Ravens are just the seventh team since 1970 and the first since the 1978 Patriots with at least 2,000 rushing yards in the first 10 games. Jackson already has 781 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. He ranks 11th among all NFL rushers. Kyler Murray is the next best rushing quarterback with 418 yards.