At least one NFL team might actually be putting its money where its mouth is where blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick is concerned.
The Las Vegas Raiders were scheduled to give Kaepernick a workout on Wednesday afternoon, ESPN reported. It would be the first time since Kaepernick was effectively—but not officially—expelled by the league in 2016 after kneeling on the sideline during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner in protest of police brutality and inequality.
A workout, essentially a tryout in which an unsigned player gets the opportunity to show their physical and football acumen—far from guarantees Kaepernick a spot on the Raiders’ roster. The team already has an entrenched starting quarterback in Derek Carr. Even if Kaepernick were to be signed, it’s hard to see any NFL team signing a player who hasn’t been on the field for a full five seasons at more than the league’s veteran minimum salary and not much, if any, guaranteed money.
That would make it easy for the Raiders to cut Kaepernick before the season started even if they did sign him, if they didn’t like what they saw during the team’s offseason team practices and training camp later this summer.
Kaepernick will turn 35 in November, which is old enough to expect his physical skills to have plateaued but not ancient by the standards of today’s best NFL signal callers. Ben Roethlisberger retired in January, just shy of his 40th birthday. Eli Manning retired at the same age in January 2020; his brother Payton retired at the same age in 2011. Tom Brady will be 45 by the start of his 22nd NFL season in the NFL.
A tryout with the Raiders might represent the best possible path forward for Kaepernick, who has consistently maintained that he wants to return to the NFL. Earlier this month, Raiders owner Mark Davis said he’d welcome Kaep to the squad if head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Zielger wanted to sign him.
Kaepernick told the I Am Athlete podcast in April that he’d be willing to take a backup job for minimum pay as long as he got a fair shot at competing to make a roster. The Raiders already have three quarterbacks on the roster behind Carr, but that list—Jarett Stidham, Nick Mullens and Chase Garbers—doesn’t include anybody that couldn’t be sacrificed for a former Super Bowl starter provided he could still throw the football.
ESPN also noted the Raiders’ history of opening doors for Black coaches and players in previous eras.
Raiders owner Mark Davis is following in the spirit of his late father, Al Davis, who provided many opportunities, such as hiring the NFL’s first Black head coach (Art Shell) and its first woman chief executive (Amy Trask) in the modern era. He also was the first owner to draft a Black quarterback in the first round and the second owner to hire a Hispanic head coach, Tom Flores.
Even if Kaepernick doesn’t make the Raiders roster, the workout could at least crack the door for other teams to give him a look; all it takes is one team brings a player into their facility, it all but removes the stigma attached to being the first team to do so. And NFL coaches and general managers often use each other as proxies, keeping close tabs on players they may be interested in by contacting other teams who have given them a tryout or had them on the roster.