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Though one of his fellow anthem-protesting former teammates has dismissed it as a “PR stunt,” Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, is set for a private workout this Saturday in Atlanta with representatives of various NFL teams, among them the New England Patriots.
The development is the closest Kaepernick has come in years to getting back into the league after opting for free agency following the 2016 season, in which he started the league-disrupting National Anthem protest movement and his team finished with a miserable 2-14 record.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” former 49ers free safety Eric Reid, who’s now with the Carolina Panthers, said Wednesday. “At this point, it feels like a PR stunt.”
But New England Patriots’ star quarterback Tom Brady had a far less cynical response Thursday night.
“I think being a pro quarterback is very challenging in and of itself,” Brady told Westwood One Sports’ Jim Gray. “To have time off is a challenge, but Colin’s overcome a lot of challenges in his career, and he’s always found a way to produce. He’s very mentally tough, and I think it’s pretty cool that he’s getting that opportunity.”
In its report on the comments, CBS Boston notes that Brady has expressed his support of Kaepernick in the past, telling CBS in 2017 that he would like to see Kaepernick return to the league.
Amid reports out of ESPN that Kaepernick will not know for sure who will be attending the event Saturday, the NFL confirmed Thursday that at least 11 teams will be at the workout, among them Brady’s Patriots.
“We are looking forward to Saturday’s workout with Colin,” the league said in a statement posted on social media Thursday. “Eleven teams — Arizona, Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New England, New York Giants, New York Jets, Tampa Bay, and Washington — have already committed to attend, and it’s only Thursday. With two days remaining until the workout, we expect additional teams to commit. Former NFL Hue Jackson will lead the drills, and former NFL coach Joe Philbin will be in attendance as well. We will send video of the workout and interview to all 32 teams, including head coaches and general managers.”
— NFL345 (@NFL345) November 14, 2019
According to ESPN‘s sources, when Kaepernick and his representatives were first notified by the NFL about the workout on Tuesday, “the quarterback’s reps asked for the workout to be on a Tuesday, which typically is when NFL workouts take place because head coaches and general managers can attend more easily.” However, the league said the workout needed to be held on this Saturday and offered no reason for not pushing the deadline back to allow more teams to come.
Kaepernick began what would turn into a multi-year controversy in the preseason of 2016, when he began refusing to stand for the performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games. Asked why he wouldn’t stand, he said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”