If Colin Kaepernick has a chance to re-enter the NFL, this could be it.
Just take a look at the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback situation and franchise situation.
Owner David Tepper did not rule out the possibility Wednesday of Cam Newton missing the entire 2019 season with a shoulder injury sustained toward the end of this season. Newton missed the final two games because of right shoulder soreness and had the same shoulder surgically repaired two years ago.
Tepper acknowledged the Panthers could be in the hunt for a quarterback, even if a one-year stopgap. Could that be Kaepernick, who is accusing the league of collusion?
Eric Reid, a Kaepernick disciple, also has taken legal action against the NFL, yet the Panthers gave him a chance. Tepper was OK with Reid, who joined Kaepernick in protest of racial inequality and remained unsigned during the 2018 offseason and filed a collusion case against the league, before he was picked up by the Panthers in Week 4 of this season.
Reid is not the polarizing standout Kaepernick is, but he’s the closest the NFL has. The 31-year-old Kaepernick has not played since 2016, when he spearheaded the protests against racial inequality during the national anthem. In the time since, teams have cited various reasons for not employing him, including his dual-threat nature not being a natural fit. The Panthers, whose offense is based on dual-threat Newton, would not have that excuse. The NFL draft is projected to be especially quarterback-thin, and the best QB available may be Nick Foles, who may have to be traded for, not signed. Kaepernick, whose career took a downturn after once leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, has 72 passing touchdowns and 30 interceptions on his resume.
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And Tepper, who bought the franchise from disgraced owner Jerry Richardson in July, has stood out among his peers for his anthem stance.
“These are some of the most patriotic people and best people. These are great young men,” Tepper told CNBC about NFL players protesting this September. “So to say that [they aren’t patriotic] makes me so aggravated and angry. It’s just wrong, it’s dead wrong.”
And Kaepernick wants back in. These days he speaks publicly primarily through social media, and he recently retweeted a note from The Nation sports editor Dave Zirin, who said the former 49er would be signed if players sat out a game in protest for him.
Perhaps it could take a prolonged Newton absence and not a protest for Kaepernick to throw another pass.