Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to audition for NFL teams Saturday in Atlanta, a session that was arranged by the league as Kaepernick continues his attempt to return to football.
Kaepernick, 32, has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season and has become a powerful symbol of the protest movement that he started among players. In February, he reached a settlement in a collusion case that he brought accusing the league and its teams of conspiring improperly to keep him out of the NFL after he refused, while with the San Francisco 49ers, to stand during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of African-Americans.
NFL teams were invited Tuesday, via a memo sent by the league office, to attend Saturday’s private workout, which will be held at the Atlanta Falcons’ training facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Kaepernick is to perform on-field drills and participate in an interview. Video of the workout and interview will be made available to all 32 NFL teams, according to a person familiar with the arrangements.
It was not immediately clear how many teams will attend. The session will be closed to the public and members of the media.
The league declined to comment and Kaepernick’s representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The session was scheduled after discussions between NFL officials and Kaepernick’s representatives.
“I’m just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday,” Kaepernick wrote on Twitter. “I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.”
Kaepernick’s representatives were told Tuesday morning that the workout had been scheduled for Saturday, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
Officials involved with the NFL scouting combine will be given a role in organizing Kaepernick’s workout. Representatives of all teams gather annually in Indianapolis in February to evaluate college players eligible for that year’s draft. But it’s highly unusual for the league to have a role in arranging what amounts to a tryout for a single veteran player. Such workouts generally take place at the practice facility of any team interested in signing that player.
“Earlier this year, we discussed some possible steps with his representatives and they recently emphasized his level of preparation and that he is ready to work out for clubs and be interviewed by them,” Tuesday’s memo from the league to teams stated. “We have therefore arranged this opportunity for him to work out, and for all clubs to have the opportunity to evaluate his current readiness and level of interest in resuming his NFL career.”
Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, reportedly has continued to work out in hopes of returning to the league. He had 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions in 12 games in 2016.
He has not been signed by a team since he opted out of his contract with the 49ers following the 2016 season, making him a free agent. The 49ers said they would not have kept Kaepernick under the terms of that contract and would have released him if he hadn’t opted out.
Kaepernick was not in the league when the controversy over players’ protests intensified in 2017, after President Donald Trump said at a rally that owners should fire any player who protests during the anthem. Owners later reached an agreement on a social justice deal with a group of players and made a subsequent attempt to modify the sport’s anthem policy before later abandoning the revised policy. The controversy quieted but Kaepernick remained out of work.
Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid, a former 49ers teammate now with the Carolina Panthers, filed grievances accusing the league and teams of colluding to keep them out of the NFL in violation of the collective bargaining agreement. The grievances were settled in February before reaching a hearing before arbitrator Stephen Burbank, the University of Pennsylvania law professor assigned to resolve disputes between the league and NFL Players Association arising from the collective bargaining agreement.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has denied that collusion took place and has said repeatedly, when asked about Kaepernick, that individual teams have made decisions based on football considerations. Still, some fellow players have expressed dismay about Kaepernick remaining without a job in the NFL and other observers have pointed to the quality of the quarterbacks signed by teams while maintaining that Kaepernick has been blackballed because of his protests.