Has anyone else? Has everyone else? Roger Goodell’s brilliant idea to hold a league-wide workout for Colin Kaepernick did succeed in generating a signing, but for one of Kaepernick’s workout receivers rather than the exiled quarterback himself. When asked yesterday whether the league would try to find another opportunity to repair its relationship with Kaepernick, the NFL commissioner declared, “We’ve moved on“:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday said the league has “moved on” from free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The remarks come weeks after Kaepernick’s highly publicized workout in front of several NFL scouts.
During a news conference in Irving, Texas, Goodell responded to a reporter’s question about the November workout with Kaepernick and how it ultimately fell apart.
“This was about creating an opportunity,” Goodell said. “We created that opportunity. It was a unique opportunity, an incredible opportunity and he chose not to take it. I understand that. And we’ve moved on here.”
Last month, ESPN had a very good long-form report on just how everything went as bad as it could possibly go in Goodell’s attempt to resolve the Kaepernick standoff. Goodell had sincerely wanted to get Kaepernick a fair shot at a new contract, and Kaepernick sincerely hoped to shine at a fair tryout. The sticking point was a fear by teams of getting a backlash from fans if they offered Kaepernick a tryout on their own, so Goodell got the idea that the league should run a one-man combine instead.
And that might have worked, ESPN reported, had they worked out the details with Kaepernick’s team up front. Instead, the league tried to keep it quiet by laying everything out themselves, which Kaepernick thought was a trap being laid for him rather than “an incredible opportunity.” The timing was strange and the league’s take-it-or-leave-it infuriating. The final straw was the much-discussed waiver, but the event had already run off the rails by that time anyway, thanks to leaks by the teams about Goodell’s latest project:
Despite the concerns regarding the NFL’s motives, the one person who was generally optimistic about the workout was Kaepernick. He had been training in anonymity in New York for nearly three years, five days a week. He felt he was in great shape. To throw in an NFL environment for the first time since December 2016 was exciting. He sent out a tweet expressing his eagerness for Saturday.
“Colin had been waiting for this moment. He’s not going to leave any stone unturned,” says a member of his camp. “His plan is to go for it. He’s going to leave it all out there? Are you kidding?”
The two sides agreed the workout would remain confidential. One member of the Kaepernick team suggested a confidentiality agreement to ensure against media leaks. “We as the NFL are not going public with this,” a Kaepernick team member recalls being told on the call. “But we cannot control the 32 teams.” Almost immediately after the call, NFL writers began receiving a text message from the league telling them to be on the lookout for an important email. Many writers believed the email would pertain to the league and troubled wide receiver Antonio Brown, but minutes later, the email came: Colin Kaepernick would work out for the NFL on Saturday.
The Kaepernick team was furious.
“They didn’t give the 32 NFL teams a heads-up, but they gave the media one?” a Kaepernick source says. “Once they betrayed us on the confidentiality agreement, we knew what this was.”
If this was ever “an incredible opportunity,” both Goodell and Kaepernick screwed it up. And thanks to Kaepernick’s grandstanding at the time, canceling at the last minute and showing up 60 miles farther wearing a “Kunta Kinte” t-shirt, all 32 teams were reminded that Kaepernick’s athletic abilities probably doesn’t outweigh his head-case liabilities. Goodell’s washing his hands of it now, but it doesn’t negate the fact that this scheme and its execution was his own hare-brained concept.
Kaepernick might still get a look in the off-season. A number of QBs are aging out of the league, and younger QBs are mainly untested. Some teams will want a veteran backup, one who’s fit and rested … even for three years. If Kaepernick really wants to play, he’ll bide his time and move quietly to work out with those teams individually. And burn that t-shirt, too.