No matter how you feel about Colin Kaepernick, you have to give him credit for good timing. On the eve of the NFL’s first full preseason slate, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback released a video to show he’s “still ready” to play — and wouldn’t you know, a prominent team is already down a quarterback.
That would be the Philadelphia Eagles, who saw Nate Sudfeld, the backup to starter Carson Wentz, carted off the field Thursday with his left forearm in an air cast. After the Eagles lost at home to the Tennessee Titans, Coach Doug Pederson told reporters that Sudfeld suffered a broken wrist and would have surgery Friday.
Now President Trump, a vocal critic of Kaepernick and other players who demonstrated during the national anthem, says he would “love to see Kaepernick come in, if he’s good enough.”
Asked during an informal gaggle with reporters outside the White House on Friday if Kaepernick should get an opportunity to play in the NFL, Trump said he thought owners would sign the quarterback if they thought he could play.
“Only if he’s good enough,” Trump said. “If he’s good enough. Why wouldn’t he play? If he’s good enough — I know the owners. I know [Patriots owner] Bob Kraft. I know so many of the owners. If he’s good enough, they’d sign him.
“If he’s good enough — I know these people. They would sign him in a heartbeat. They will do anything they can to win games. So I’d like to see it. Frankly, I’d love to see Kaepernick come in, if he’s good enough. But I don’t want to see him come in because somebody thinks it’s a good PR move. If he’s good enough, he will be in.”
It’s a major about-face for Trump who has called for players who demonstrated during the anthem to be fired and has used the issue, and Kaepernick by name, to fire up supporters at campaign rallies.
Kaepernick, who led San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance in 2013, has been out of work since 2017 when he opted out of his contract with the 49ers, then faced a chilly free agent market. He eventually filed a grievance against the NFL, alleging that team owners were colluding to punish him for his role in originating protests of racial injustice during the national anthem. That grievance was settled in February, as was a similar one filed by former 49ers teammate and fellow protester Eric Reid, for an undisclosed amount.
In the video posted Wednesday, Kaepernick showed himself working out strenuously while saying in a voice-over, “5 a.m. Five days a week. For three years. Still ready.”
But are the Eagles, who need another backup under center, ready for him?
Pederson said Philadelphia would not bring in another quarterback right away, leaving third-stringer Cody Kessler as the backup for the time being. However, while the coach said he did not think Sudfeld’s injury was season-ending, the third-year player will likely be out for several weeks.
Meanwhile, some Philadelphia fans didn’t even need to wait until the end of the game to start calling for their team to sign a certain long-out-of-work replacement.
What Kaepernick did put on display was footage of himself throwing a football, which was something of an issue for him during his six NFL seasons. He posted a somewhat subpar completion percentage of 59.8, including a mark of 59.2 in his most recent season in 2016, when the 49ers went 1-10 in his 11 starts.
However, Kaepernick put up solid numbers in other categories that season, including 16 touchdown passes to four interceptions and a 90.7 passer rating, and he did his usual damage on the ground, rushing for 468 yards and two more scores. Add in leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, plus another trip to the NFC championship game in 2014, and he has reason to believe he possesses a much better résumé than many quarterbacks who have been signed over the past three years.
His protests and overall activism have made Kaepernick a polarizing figure among NFL fans, though, and more than a few teams have likely decided long since that they want to steer clear of him. The Eagles, however, could be among the organizations possibly more receptive to him, given that they have had a number of players with outspoken views on social and political issues.
In fact, so many Philadelphia players expressed opposition to a White House visit after the team won the Super Bowl in February of 2018 that Trump disinvited the Eagles. That development came several weeks after comments surfaced from Eagles owner Jeff Lurie, in which he referred to the “disastrous presidency” of Trump, who has been a sharp critic of Kaepernick and the player protests.
One possible issue could be the fact that Philadelphia has on its roster safety Malcolm Jenkins, whose negotiations with the NFL on behalf of other players in the wake of the protests earned him the wrath of Reid. Before an Eagles-Panthers game last year, Jenkins got into a confrontation with Reid, who had signed with Carolina.
Reid, who has said he plans to continue to kneel during the anthem, called Jenkins at the time a “sellout” who “co-opted” the player protests. Kaepernick then posted a tweet proclaiming his support for Reid.
Of course, assuming the Eagles add a quarterback, they may well prefer to sign someone with far more recent NFL experience. The current free agent crop includes such notable, if uninspiring, names as Matt Cassel, Josh Johnson, Josh McCown, Brock Osweiler and Brandon Weeden.
Another option could be Sam Bradford, who was Philadelphia’s starting quarterback in 2015 and studied Doug Pederson’s system when the coach arrived in 2016 before getting traded to the Minnesota Vikings just ahead of the regular season. That possibility, however, did not appear to be met Thursday evening with full enthusiasm by the Eagles’ fan base.
The Eagles have another quarterback, rookie Clayton Thorson, still on their roster, but the concern over Sudfeld’s injury was about more than making sure the team had enough people around to throw footballs during training camp. Wentz has been unable to finish the past two seasons, suffering major injuries to his knee and back, respectively, in 2017 and 2018.
At that time, Philadelphia had an excellent insurance policy in Nick Foles, who earned Super Bowl LII MVP honors. The Eagles could have kept him around this year by placing the franchise tag on him, but instead they allowed him to seek a starting job elsewhere, and in March he signed a four-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars that could be worth up to $100 million.
That elevated Sudfeld, a 2016 sixth-round pick out of Indiana, to the backup job, and he had looked solid in training camp, per reports. He started Thursday’s game well, completing 10 of 18 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown, but with 30 seconds left in the first half he was driven to the ground by Tennessee’s Isaiah Mack, who was flagged for a late hit, and injured his wrist.
After Thursday’s game, Pederson, a former NFL quarterback, joked that he might come out of retirement.
Of the likelihood of adding a quarterback, the coach said, “We’re not there yet. Nate is going to be fine. He’s going to be back. We’re optimistic about that.”
Pederson may or may not have been trying to put a quick end to speculation about Sudfeld’s replacement, but given that preseason games have only just begun, it’s likely that so have the injuries to quarterbacks. In addition, others at the position can be expected to play poorly over the next couple of weeks, so we almost certainly haven’t heard the last of fans suggesting that their teams end Kaepernick’s unemployment.
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