Our only exchange was one of frustration. Kaepernick wants back in the NFL. Owners want Kaepernick to retire. Kaepernick wants free agency. He wants a king.
We had some back and forth about too many other issues, so the response comes after about 10 minutes. We agreed on this.
Keep sending. Call it what you will. The response is a typical one:
“Kaepernick should retire. He’s the best option,” said Jeff Pearlman, a social media entrepreneur who lives in Tacoma, Washington. “Kaepernick can’t play in the NFL anymore. Can’t touch any kind of tight end or offensive lineman. He couldn’t run a route. Not that it would help, but he was a pocket passer. He has complete control over his football. But he is washed out in the NFL. That’s over.”
For all of it’s poetically astounding ambiguity, this is reasonable. Yes, Kaepernick is way over his prime. He has a couple of years left. Yes, Kaepernick can still be a quarterback. No, there are no known injuries to players returning from shoulder, knee, ankle, etc.
Guys turn 30 and others turn 30 and change. If you see them as old, you probably won’t view them as in their prime. That said, just because a guy can be good at 39 doesn’t mean he has to be old.
Turning pro in 2007, and the NFL before it, Kaepernick thrived. He was NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and became a starter just before the start of his second season. He was just 22 years old. He went 9-2 as a starter. He threw for 5,241 yards and 33 touchdowns. The 49ers made the playoffs again, and then won the Super Bowl two years later. In 2013, he threw for 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. If the league hadn’t taken two hit, that was a career season. He lost those games, but he was an MVP candidate.
The year before the 49ers won the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos took a mess and transformed it into another Super Bowl contender. Peyton Manning was in his prime.
Everybody wants to claim the right to disrespect the flag. That’s a fine argument. After all, he gave it to you. It’s a fact.
America is a nation that became stronger by fighting tyranny. We are tired of oppression, and yes, we have a particular set of rules and what we think should be acceptable. That said, all of us have more freedoms that we’ve ever had, and that is a tremendous blessing. Kneeling is not the same as protesting, and taking the knee doesn’t represent disrespecting America. It just means he was upset. We’re all not okay with things and there is no reason to be angry. The speech was clean.
But the currency of the time, America is money, and that is why Kaepernick is still unsigned. He owes $11.9 million to the 49ers, and only gets $1.76 million guaranteed in his Niner deal. If no NFL team picks him up, he’ll be out of pocket. He doesn’t need the money. He just wants one more shot.
You can tell, though, that Mr. Kaepernick has a big problem. He believes that he should be king, and if his organization isn’t willing to be servant, then he’ll be a parasite. He’ll be a coach. He won’t be able to do anything else. He’ll merely curse the owner and complain.
And these owners (and these fans) refuse to accept this. Because they’re all country first.
Ralph D. Russo is the associate editor for College Football for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter @ralphDrussoAP.