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More than five years since he last appeared in an NFL game, Colin Kaepernick is getting arguably his best chance at returning to the league.
The Las Vegas Raiders on Wednesday are working out the 34-year-old free agent quarterback, who last played in the NFL in 2016, the same year he started kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice, according to multiple reports.
“The fact that the Raiders are gonna have him workout today tells you that there has to be some level of interest in signing him,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday on NFL Live. “That this is not just some cursory look at a free-agent quarterback. Nobody else has been willing to do what the Raiders are doing today.”
“No one knows exactly the shape he’s in, nobody knows exactly how he would handle the offense, so the Raiders are gonna bring him in, take a look, [and] see what he’s about,” he added.
The Raiders are reportedly looking to see if Kaepernick would be a good fit in a quarterback room that already includes Derek Carr as the team’s starter. Las Vegas traded for backup Jarrett Stidham this month and the team previously signed Nick Mullens during the offseason.
Kaepernick stated in a podcast interview last month that he “absolutely” wants to play in the league again and was even willing to return to the league as a backup quarterback if that helps his comeback chances. Kaepernick also has a connection to the state of Nevada having played college football at the University of Nevada, Reno.
“Five years of training behind the scenes,” Kaepernick told former NFL stars Brandon Marshall, Chad Johnson, and Pacman Jones during an interview with the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast. “You don’t do that if you don’t have a passion, and you don’t believe you’re gonna find a way on that field.”
“I know I have to find my way back in. So yeah. If I have to come in as a backup, that’s fine,” he said. “But that’s not where I’m staying. And when I prove that I’m a starter, I want to be able to step on the field as such. I just need that opportunity to walk through the door.”
The quarterback said in the interview that he kept quiet on his desire to play in the NFL again because he didn’t want to be a distraction for interested teams. He said not a single team hosted him for an opportunity since his departure from the San Francisco 49ers.
“No teams brought me in for a workout,” Kaepernick said. “No team has brought me in for an opportunity. I had the one meeting with Seattle in 2017. And out of that, [head coach] Pete Carroll said, ‘Hey, he’s a starter; we have a starter.’ And things moved on from there, but they don’t have a starter right now.”
Kaepernick did reunite with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan’s spring game last month, where he was invited to participate in a throwing audition for NFL scouts. The quarterback reportedly ran a number of throwing drills during a 15-minute session with draft-eligible players at halftime.
Asked why owners and general managers should buy that he would make their locker room better and not be a distraction, Kaepernick argued that the league now pledges to support similar issues he advocated for in the past.
“You have ‘End Racism’ in the back of your end zone. You have ‘Black Lives Matter’ on your helmet. Everything I’ve said should be in alignment with what you’re saying publicly,” Kaepernick said. “It’s a $16 billion business. When I first took a knee, my jersey went to No. 1. When I did the deal with Nike, their value increased by $6 billion. Six billion. With a B.”
“So if you’re talking about the business side, it shows beneficial. If you’re talking about the playing side, come in, [and] let me compete. You can evaluate me from there,” he added. “The NFL is 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.”
Kaepernick threw for 12,271 yards and 72 touchdowns over six seasons with San Francisco. The quarterback said his goal remains winning an NFL championship after coming close with the 49ers nearly 10 years ago.