FILE – In this Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) warms up before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif. Talent or not, Kaepernick won’t be setting foot on any NFL field very soon. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
TIM DAHLBERG, AP Sports Columnist
No less of a coach than Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks believes that Colin Kaepernick is “a starter in this league,” whatever that means.
It certainly doesn’t mean Kaepernick will have a job in the NFL this upcoming season. Not in Seattle, which declined to sign him, and probably not among the other 30 teams that — in different circumstances — would be lining up to outbid each other to sign a quarterback of his talent.
A lot of NFL fans think that’s a good thing. They hate the idea that Kaepernick wouldn’t stand for his country’s national anthem, and hate any suggestion that the team they love might sign a player so publicly out of touch with how they feel.
New York Giants co-owner John Mara said as much when he told The MMQB last month that Giants fans made it clear to him that Kaepernick — who the Giants were not pursuing — would not be welcome at the Meadowlands.
“It wasn’t one or two letters,” Mara said. “It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, more so than any other issue I’ve run into.”
Perhaps that’s what the Seahawks discovered after bringing Kaepernick in a few weeks ago to sound him out about backing up Russell Wilson. The team isn’t explaining why, but their interest in Kaepernick suddenly waned to the point that on Monday they signed Austin Davis — who didn’t even play last year — instead of the former San Francisco 49er.
Not exactly the kind of move you’d expect a team to make when they had a chance to pick up a quarterback that just five years ago led his team to a Super Bowl.
If Kaepernick is too toxic for Seattle, he’s not likely to be welcomed anywhere else in the NFL. There are no other teams courting him — at least publicly — and time is running out as teams get their rosters ready for the opening of training camps next month.
No, he’s not officially blackballed from the league. But he might as well be as teams in the last few months have signed lesser quarterbacks like Case Keenum and Mark Sanchez without even picking up the phone to see if Kaepernick is interested.
Taking a stand often means paying a price. In Kaepernick’s case, not standing up for the national anthem may cost him his career.
He acknowledged as much at the time, knowing what he did would not be popular among the majority of NFL fans. Indeed, the backlash was so severe that some blamed Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem for a decline in the NFL’s television ratings.
But Kaepernick said he could not show pride in a flag of a country he believes oppresses blacks and other minorities.
“If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right,” he said at the time.
Take away the controversy, and Kaepernick would seem an attractive candidate for any team looking for another quarterback. Though the 49ers went 1-10 behind him last year, he threw for 16 touchdowns against only four interceptions.
He’s not dealing with any injuries, is well-liked by fellow players and donates his time off the field to several charities. He’s also reportedly indicated he would stand for the anthem this upcoming season should a team give him a chance to play.
Still, there are no takers. Aside from Seattle, no team has expressed any real interest.
“He’s a starter in this league and I can’t imagine that somebody won’t give him a chance to play,” Carroll said last week.
Actually, it’s pretty easy to imagine.
You can kill dogs, be involved in sexual assaults or do any number of bad acts and still get a second chance in the NFL, assuming you have enough talent. Disrespect the flag in a league that sells patriotism at every turn, though, and good luck finding a job.
Kaepernick is smart enough to know that. Yet he felt his cause was so just that he took a knee with the 49ers anyway.
Praise him, if you like, for bravely going where other players feared to go. Condemn him, if that’s how you feel, for going about it the wrong way.
Just don’t expect to see him on the field anytime soon.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at [email protected] or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg
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