Colin Kaepernick has his best chance of returning to the NFL since his protest against social injustice effectively exiled him from the league, according to ESPN.
League sources told ESPN that the quarterback will workout for the Las Vegas Raiders this week. He visited with the Seattle Seahawks in May 2017 but did not participate in on-field activities and was not offered a deal afterwards. The 34-year-old also threw for undrafted NFL receivers in front of scouts during a half-time session at a college football game earlier this year.
Kaepernick last played in the NFL during the 2016 season, when he knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice. He has not played in the league after leaving the San Francisco 49ers at the end of that season, and teams are accused of blackballing him due to his political beliefs.
In an appearance on the I Am Athlete podcast in April, Kaepernick pushed back on the idea that his protests were a distraction in the locker room. “That 2016 season, my last year, my teammates voted me the most courageous and inspirational player,” he said. “So, when you’re talking about the people that are in the building, that has never come out that I’ve been a distraction. That’s never come out that I’ve been an issue for the people I’ve played with. “
Kaepernick has become a popular figure among progressives in American and has fronted several high-profile advertising campaigns. He says he has kept himself in shape and could also boost revenues for the league if he returns.
“So if you’re talking about the business side, it shows [it’s] beneficial, ”he told the I Am Athlete podcast. “If you’re talking about the playing side, come in, let me compete. You can evaluate me from there. The NFL’s supposed to be a meritocracy. Come in, let me compete. If I’m not good enough, get rid of me. But let me come in and show you. ”
The Raiders are one of the more progressive franchises in the conservative world of the NFL. They were the first team to hire a Black head coach and a female chief executive. Last month, Raiders owner Mark Davis spoke complimented Kaepernick during an appearance on the NBC Sports Bay Area.
“I believe in Colin Kaepernick,” Davis said. “He deserves every chance in the world to become a quarterback in the National Football League. I still stand by it. If our coaches and general manager want to bring him in or want him to be the quarterback on this team, I would welcome him with open arms. ”
The Raiders made the playoffs last season and have a talented roster but they play in the AFC West, the strongest division in the NFL, which includes two of the best quarterbacks in football: the Kansas City Chiefs ‘Patrick Mahomes and the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert.
Kaepernick would almost certainly be a back-up if the team do agree a deal with him: the Raiders recently signed starting quarterback Derek Carr to a $ 121.5m, three-year extension. Kaepernick has said in the past that he would be willing to act as a back-up if he does return to the league. Former New England Patriot Jarrett Stidham, Chase Garbers and Nick Mullens are the other two quarterbacks currently on the Raiders roster. Kaepernick was considered one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL before his career was cut short and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance at the end of the 2012 season.