Malcolm Jenkins has wanted Colin Kaepernick back in the NFL for more than two years. Now that the NFL appears willing to facilitate Kaepernick’s return, Jenkins isn’t buying it.
“I have my doubts about the league,” Jenkins said. “Now the league can say, ‘Look, we gave you a chance.’ I’d be naive to not be leery.”
Like many of his peers, Jenkins believes that the NFL is using the hastily arranged audition Saturday in Atlanta as a way to wash their hands of the Kaepernick matter once and for all.
Kaepernick could not decline the invitation, of course; doing so would absolve the owners, who have, at least implicitly, blackballed Kaepernick and his controversial baggage. This is a one-time, a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, completely on the league’s terms. Kaepernick had to take it.
Jenkins resents this hollow offer. He looks around the league and sees plenty of need at the quarterback position, both past and present. He could look around his own locker room. The Eagles coaxed 40-year-old journeyman Josh McCown out of retirement when backup Nate Sudfeld was injured in training camp.
“There’s been plenty of quarterbacks hurt year already,” Jenkins said. He shrugged and sipped a post-practice smoothie. “Why now?”
Why now, indeed.
By Week 11, playoff-bound teams have their quarterback rooms stabilized and likely would avoid any disruption to their seasons, however brief a disruption the addition of Kaepernick might be. Rebuilding teams have put the reins in the hands of their young quarterbacks, as Washington did Monday with Dwayne Haskins. Offenses are as established and as complex as they will get; the learning curve would be massive for any new quarterback, much less one who took his last snap before Donald Trump took office.
The best Kaepernick, now 32, could likely hope for is that a team with progressive ownership and postseason aspirations falls into a quarterback crisis. Jenkins has seen that happen before -- with the Eagles, in both 2017 and 2018 -- but the Birds never called Kaep.
In keeping with team policy concerning scouting matters the Eagles declined to say if they would attend the workout Saturday in Atlanta, but they have consistently indicated that they always evaluate every available player. As such, they are likely to take a look at Kaepernick. The Lions, Falcons, and Redskins said they will attend. ESPN.com reported that the Cowboys also will send a representative.
Jenkins was one of the first NFL players to join Kaepernick in his protest of police brutality and racial injustice during the playing of the national anthem. From those protests grew the Players Coalition, a group of current and former NFL players that Jenkins co-founded (McCown sits on the 12-man task force), whose stated charter is “MAKING AN IMPACT ON SOCIAL JUSTICE AND RACIAL EQUALITY.”
Jenkins has sat across from NFL officials for years. Better than most, Jenkins understands the level of animosity between Kaepernick and the owners. Kaepernick and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid filed a grievance against the NFL that was settled in February. Reid is in his second season with the Panthers. Kaepernick remains unemployed.
Jenkins remains a Kaepernick supporter even if it goes unappreciated. Reid, Kaepernick’s closest ally, accosted Jenkins on Lincoln Financial Field and called Jenkins a “sellout” after the teams met on Oct. 21, 2018.
Jenkins said he has not been in contact with Kaepernick for more than a year. He wonders if the tryout is a means by which the league can protect itself from further litigation.
ESPN.com reported that Kaepernick’s camp was invited to participate in the tryout on Tuesday morning and that teams were informed via league memo Tuesday afternoon about the unusual Saturday afternoon workout.
Teams typically allot time on Tuesdays for workouts, since they spend Saturdays traveling and/or preparing for Sunday games and since their scouting departments usually spend Saturdays scouting college games. The NFL will tape the workout and the interview session, both of which will be held at the Falcons’ practice facility.
The ESPN report said that the league decided to hold the workout in response to an Oct. 10 statement from Kaepernick’s representatives that said no team had even bothered to work Kaepernick out since he opted out of his contract in the winter of 2017 (because the Niners had told him they planned to release him).
That was more than a month ago. The trade deadline has passed, and most teams know what their immediate future holds.
Jenkins smells a rat.
He isn’t convinced that Kaepernick will get a chance regardless how badly a team might need a quarterback, even one who is 4-2 in two postseason runs and came 5 yards short of a likely Super Bowl XLVII win over the Ravens.
“I mean, hopefully, it’s for real," Jenkins said. "Hopefully he can show them he can play. That he can throw. That he’s in shape.”
And if he does?