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No knee now

Kaepernick saga continues with surprise public workout

Paul Newberry/Associated Press | 11/22/2019, 6 a.m.
Colin Kaepernick’s saga took another surreal turn last Saturday — a last-minute audible to nix an NFL-arranged workout and a ...
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick participates in a workout for NFL scouts and the media last Saturday at a high school field in Riverdale, Ga. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

RIVERDALE, Ga. - Colin Kaepernick’s saga took another surreal turn last Saturday — a last-minute audible to nix an NFL-arranged workout and a quick dash 60 miles to the other side of Metro Atlanta, where the exiled quarterback staged his own impromptu passing display on a high school field in dwindling light as hundreds of fans cheered him on from behind a chain-link fence.

Mr. Kaepernick threw passes for about 40 minutes at Charles Drew High School and spent nearly that long signing autographs for a crowd that steadily grew as word spread that a quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl and sparked a wave of protests and divisive debate by kneeling during the national anthem was in the neighborhood.

Mr. Kaepernick declared again that he’s ready to play in the NFL — if someone will just give him a chance.

“I’ve been ready for three years,” he said. “I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why. I came out here today and showed it in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. We’re waiting for the 32 owners, the 32 teams, (Commissioner) Roger Goodell, all of them to stop running, stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.”

In a move no one saw coming, the league that Mr. Kaepernick claims blackballed him called Nov. 12 with a take-it-or-leave-it offer to hold an extraordinary workout at the Atlanta Falcons’ training complex in the sprawling suburbs north of the city.

All 32 teams were invited. Former NFL head coaches Hue Jackson and Joe Philbin were set to run the drills. The league said 25 teams were sending scouts and representatives, many of whom had already arrived at the Falcons’ indoor training facility in Flowery Branch when word came that Mr. Kaepernick wasn’t going to take part.

Instead, Mr. Kaepernick decided to hold a workout open to the media— unlike the session at the Falcons’ facility— at a high school stadium just south of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 60 miles away.

With barely more than an hour to spare, the media that had been herded into a gated-off area in the parking lot and told that was as close as they would get to Mr. Kaepernick’s workout hustled to their vehicles to set off for a high school most had never heard of.

But only eight of the original 25 team representatives followed along to the new location, including Philadelphia Eagles vice president of football operations Andrew Berry. It appeared the New York Jets, Kansas City and Washington also had scouts in attendance.

They stood along the sideline, jotting into their notepads as Mr. Kaepernick tossed passes to four free-agent receivers.

“Our biggest thing with everything today was to make sure we had transparency in what went on,” Mr. Kaepernick said. “We weren’t getting that elsewhere, so we came out here.”

Mr. Kaepernick has clearly kept himself in good shape during his near three-year layoff. His passes had plenty of zip on them, though he was a bit off target with a few of his deep throws. It was not the sort of session that would likely sway a team one way or the other.