Every NFL team hopes to find a dynamic quarterback who can lead them to victory on Sunday. During the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, it looked like that man was Colin Kaepernick. As we all know, however, the signal-caller never fully rose to stardom; after some performance hiccups and his now-famous protests, he found himself without a job.
In recent weeks, though, the narrative around former 49er has shifted, and Roger Goodell told teams that they should feel free to sign the quarterback. While nothing’s set in stone yet, Colin Kaepernick’s comeback chances may have gotten a boost from the Detroit Lions.
In modern sports, few players have become more divisive than Colin Kaepernick. Four years after his famous protests, though, things seem a bit different.
Kaepernick started his time in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, where he started out as Alex Smith’s backup. Once he claimed the starting job, however, he looked like a future star; the quarterback could make plays with both his arms and his legs and promptly led the Niners to a Super Bowl and NFC championship.
Kaepernick’s time in the Bay Area didn’t end happily, though. On the field, both he and the 49ers struggled; it’s worth noting, though, that the team wasn’t exactly the model of stability at the time. The quarterback also started kneeling during the national anthem in 2016. While he repeatedly explained that he took issue with America’s treatment of minorities, not the country or the flag, he was still branded as a distraction; that reality meant Kaepernick couldn’t land a job when he hit free agency.
In recent weeks, however, things have sounded a bit different. A former NFL executive admitted that the league’s owners thought Kaepernick was bad for business; Rodger Goodell said Black Lives Matter and encouraged teams to consider signing the quarterback. While only time will tell if those are the seeds of change or mere lip service, it is a marked change in tone, if nothing else.
Roger Goodell can support Colin Kaepernick until he’s blue in the face, but one NFL team has to ultimately decide to sign the quarterback. On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions became more of a possibility than ever before.
Martha Firestone Ford, who had been at the franchise’s helm since her husband, William, died in 2014, announced she would be stepping down as the Lions’ principal owner. Sheila Ford Hamp, her daughter, will take over the team’s top role.
That change means the organization’s position on Colin Kaepernick has changed. As documented by a 2017 Bleacher Report post, Martha Firestone Ford reportedly asked her player not to kneel during the national anthem; her daughter, it seems, has a slightly more progressive view.
On Tuesday, reporters asked Sheila Ford Hamp about the possibility of the Lions signing Colin Kaepernick. As noted on Twitter by Jennifer Hammond, Ford Hamp said that “if our coaches and general manager all thought it was a good idea to bring him in, then I would support that.”
In the grand scheme of things, Sheila Ford Hamp’s statement probably won’t mean too much; the Detroit Lions will presumably have Matt Stafford back to full health and signed Chase Daniels as a backup. While it’s unlikely that they’ll sign Colin Kaepernick unless someone gets hurt, the clubs 2019 season shows why no team should completely ignore the former 49er.
While it’s easy to write off a backup quarterback as a guy who holds a clipboard and sits in meetings, it can be an incredibly important role. Last season, for example, the Lions relied on David Blough and Jeff Driskel during Stafford’s absence; the team went 0-8 during that stretch. No matter how Colin Kaepernick would have played, he probably couldn’t have done any worse.
For years, Kaepernick’s supporters have used that exact talking point: even if you don’t think the quarterback is a star, he can’t be worse than every starter and backup in the NFL. While it seems like those around the NFL are starting to grasp that reality, only time—and personnel decisions—will tell.
Based on her comments, Sheila Ford Hamp didn’t exactly stick her neck out for Colin Kaepernick. With each additional statement, however, there’s one fewer owner in the NFL who’s actively opposed to his actions. That’s a low bar to clear, but it still can’t hurt.
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