Kaepernick’s Atlanta Workout Creates More Questions Than Answers

Kayden Molock, Staff Writer

Colin Kaepernick was scheduled to have a workout in front of scouts and representatives of 25 out of the 32 National Football League teams this past Saturday. The workout was scheduled to occur at the Atlanta Falcons practice facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia. 

This workout was planned by NFL officials and Kaepernick’s team was notified of the workout by the NFL Tuesday morning and was significant because it was the first workout in front of NFL teams that Kaepernick has had since 2016 when he parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers. 

According to Mike Miller of Sports Illustrated, the NFL gave Kaepernick 2 hours to accept the invitation to the workout. In addition, The date and location of the workout were non-negotiable.

Typical player workouts conducted by NFL teams are held on Tuesdays because it is an off-day for teams and high ranking team officials have more flexibility. The scheduling of the workout for a Saturday ensured that most high ranking team officials wouldn’t be able to attend. 

“Several executives with teams have reached out as a courtesy to Colin Kaepernick’s representatives saying they couldn’t attend Saturday’s workout and were confused by the purpose of the NFL scheduling this workout,” ESPN analyst Adam Schefter said via Twitter.

Colin Kaepernick accepted the invitation to workout despite these peculiar terms, although both sides were still not on the same page.

Saturday morning prior to the scheduled workout both sides remained at an impasse. NFL officials would not allow the workout to be open to members of the media. Kaepernick’s representatives emphasized the importance of transparency in the process.

Another key disagreement area for both parties was the injury/liability waiver presented by the NFL. Kaepernick’s team was concerned about certain language that could strip him of the ability to take future legal action against the league for employment-related claims. Kaepernick’s team countered with a waiver that would not take his ability to take future action against the NFL, however, the NFL would not agree to that waiver.

This caused Kaepernick to conduct his own workout without NFL support at Charles Drew High School in Riverdale, GA. The workout was scheduled for 4 pm, an hour later than the workout the NFL had planned. Only eight of the original 25 teams that had agreed to come to the initial Kaepernick workout attended the rescheduled one.

The results of Kaepernick’s workout were generally positive. Scouts raved about Kaepernick’s elite arm strength and physical condition, while acknowledging his deep ball accuracy could’ve been better.

“…[A]n NFL executive at Colin Kaepernick’s throwing session said his arm talent is ‘elite’ and is the same as when he came out of college. He said Kaepernick threw the ball well,” Schefter said via Twitter.

Despite the favorable performance by Kaepernick and feedback from representatives of NFL teams, one thing remains clear. This workout was never entirely about football for either side. And this shouldn’t come as a major surprise. 

Kaepernick has remained unemployed for the past three seasons and has not had any teams reach out for an official workout during this period. For NFL representatives this workout was more about being able to control the narrative of the Kaepernick situation. By creating this workout, the NFL could say it did everything in its power to provide Kaepernick with an opportunity and also reduce the chances of future legal action.

Before last Tuesday, the NFL and Kaepernick’s team had not communicated since February’s collusion case settlement. The league failed to comment on the timing of this midseason workout and remained apprehensive to cooperate with Kaepernick’s team despite informing them about the workout the same week it was scheduled to occur.

The strange injury/liability waiver language and lack of willingness to allow media access to the workout raises two issues. 

First, why was this waiver a non-negotiable factor for the NFL? If the workout is truly about providing Kaepernick an opportunity then why couldn’t have the language been adjusted so that Kaepernick’s right to sue wasn’t in jeopardy?

The second issue is media availability at the workout. The league refused to change its position on allowing media access but failed to identify what issues could arise from the public being able to witness the workout. Open media access would limit the NFL’s ability to control the narrative and perception of the workout. The NFL’s ability to retain control throughout this process has been a constant theme.

For Kaepernick, football was not his sole motivator during this process. The NFL provided him a spontaneous and clumsy opportunity to return to the NFL, and he could have gone through with the workout. If he were willing to sacrifice his personal integrity/future legal options and allow the NFL to control the narrative surrounding the workout, then he could’ve adhered to all of the NFL’s wishes.

For Kaepernick, receiving a fair, transparent workout was more important than simply participating in a workout that was never truly set up for him to succeed. The workout planned by the NFL was rushed, random, and disingenuous from the start.

Kaepernick knew what was at stake, and recognized that impartial, genuine support from NFL teams and officials would be required for a possible return to the league. Fairness and transparency are things he hasn’t and isn’t likely to ever receive from the same league that has punished him for fighting for what he believes in. 

Unfortunately for Kaepernick, his future in the NFL did not become any clearer after Saturday’s workout.