Greg Cote

What NFL team will be brave enough (and smart enough) to give Kaepernick a chance?

From left, 49ers linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneel in protest during the national anthem on Oct. 2, 2016.
From left, 49ers linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneel in protest during the national anthem on Oct. 2, 2016. AP

The NFL is not always especially choosy about its quarterbacks. If unlike Venus de Milo you have an arm attached to your body, chances are you’ll be good enough for somebody. Recent examples litter the league...

Josh McCown, about to turn 38, has an NFL record of 22-63 as a starter including 20 losses in his past 22 games. He got signed by the New York Jets.

Mike Glennon has thrown all of 11 passes over the previous two seasons. He just signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the Chicago Bears.

Mark Sanchez also was signed by the Bears, despite his being Mark Sanchez.

Nick Foles, who with one fanciful run in 2013 formed the mistaken impression he’s good, was reacquired by the Philadelphia Eagles and is being paid $27.5 million to not start.

The San Francisco 49ers decided journeyman career reserve Brian Hoyer deserved another shot, and also exhumed the flagging career of Matt Barkley.

There are now reports the New Orleans Saints are looking into signing the toxic One-Man Party, Johnny Manziel. No, seriously.

OK, now here is a brief description of an available quarterback who has not been signed in free agency and remains curiously available:

Is a healthy 29 years old and coming into his physical prime.

Has led his team to a Super Bowl.

Topped a 90 passer rating rating and threw 16 touchdowns vs. only four interceptions last season.

Is a dual threat who was second among all QBs in rushing and averaged 6.8 yards per run.

Sound like a decent candidate?

One small issue:

His name is Colin Kaepernick, and the only thing more obvious than his talent is his social conscience.

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I am not suggesting there is collusion at work among NFL owners, general managers or coaches – at least not the kind of actual collusion that is, you know, illegal. But if it turns out the NFL is telling Kaepernick his career is done, there will be no logical conclusion to how it ended that does not involve the strong suspicion he was blackballed over his social activism.

The filmmaker Spike Lee, a friend of Kaepernick’s, recently posted on Instagram: “What crime has Colin committed?” and said Kaepernick’s continuing unemployment “smells MAD fishy to me, stinks to the high heavens.”

I don’t disagree. It is suspicious. Just Friday On ESPN’s First Take, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, asked if he thinks Kaepernick is being blackballed, said, “I’m sure he is.”

But I do not believe it’s a bunch of teams secretly agreeing (colluding) on a course of action here. I believe it is a bunch of individual cowards deciding on their own they don’t want to take on the challenge of a free-thinking, free-speaking, tatted-up athlete at the single most attention-getting position in sports.

Let it be some other team’s problem, think the weak teams – overlooking all of the potential positives a motivated Kaepernick might bring to their rosters. There are not many teams this guy might not benefit – Miami Dolphins included. (Would I take Kaepernick as Ryan Tannehill’s backup over Matt Moore? Oh hell yes, thank you).

Kaapernick, his points about social injustice made, already has said he plans to stand for the anthem this coming season. Unfortunately he’ll be standing in his living room unless some team comes forth with the offer of a sideline.

What are teams afraid of? That the Commander-in-Tweet, Donald Trump, might unleash one of his 3 a.m. storms against whatever team signed him? That there might be a small, brief backlash from fans who never understood that Kaepernick kneeling was far closer to patriotism than to treason?

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It feels demeaning to say Kaepernick deserves another chance when he has done nothing – or or off the field – to cause him to beg.

His career lull is not entirely or even mostly on him. The 49ers didn’t start losing because Kaepernick got bad. His star dimmed because the Niners swapped Jim Harbaugh for coaching calamity, went from a Pro Bowl-laden defense to a bad one, and got old around him on offense.

His rebound last season – despite all the pressure he took on over the national-anthem kneeling controversy – showed he is hardly done as a viable quarterback, perhaps even one still on the ascent.

I am still not convinced Kaepernick won’t be playing for somebody come summer. A lot still has to happen on the quarterback front. Some teams who could be interested in Kaepernick are first waitig to see when the Cowboys finally release Tony Romo, and if the Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo. Jay Cutler and his bleak future also are still out there.

Amid it all, there should be a home, somewhere, for Colin Kaepernick.

By the way, he just re-Tweeted a statement that the U.S. “has the largest incarcerated population in the world. No other society in histiory has imprisoned more of its own citizens.” He also just quietly donated $50,000 to Meals On Wheels, one of the social programs being defunded by Trump.

Kaepernick’s activism hasn’t ended.

Let us hope the same of his NFL career.

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