By Gene Cherry
(Reuters) – A spirited Colin Kaepernick said he was ready to play anywhere in the National Football League after a long awaited tryout at an Atlanta area high school on Saturday.
“I’ve been ready for three years. I’ve been denied for three years,” said the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who made headlines by kneeling at games during the U.S. anthem to protest against racial injustice.
He has said teams would not sign him because they wanted to distance themselves from the protests, which U.S. President Donald Trump criticized as unpatriotic and disrespectful.
“So we are waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams and (league commissioner) Roger Goodell to stop running,” the 32-year-old said. “Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.
“We are ready to play. We are ready to go anywhere.”
The NFL had arranged the tryout at the Atlanta Falcons training facility, but at the last minute the quarterback’s representatives moved the workout to a high school stadium.
Kaepernick said it was done so media could be present.
Live stream video showed Kaepernick making a variety of throws to a group of receivers to applause from on-lookers.
His arm talent remains “elite” and is the same as when he came out of college, ESPN reported an NFL executive commenting after the workout, adding Kaepernick threw the ball well.
Online viewers also said he has a future in the NFL.
“He still has lower third to mid tier starter ability,” said one viewer on Twitter. “If media circle didn’t follow, someone would have him as a backup at minimum already.”
Another said, “So far, Kaepernick looks like Kaepernick. Outstanding velocity, everything on a rope, can make any throw. Questions teams will have about different arcs and speeds, performance when hurried, and progression-reading — the questions I’d have – can’t really be answered here.”
Kaepernick’s representatives made the move to the high school after accusing the league of not acting in a forthright manner in organizing the workout.
“From the outset, Mr. Kaepernick requested a legitimate process and from the outset the NFL league office has not provided one,” they said in a statement.
“Most recently, the NFL has demanded that as a precondition to the workout, Mr. Kaepernick sign an unusual liability waiver that addresses employment-related issues and rejected the standard liability waiver from physical injury proposed by Mr. Kaepernick’s representatives.”
Kaepernick also had requested all media be allowed into the workout to observe and film it, but the NFL denied the request, the statement said.
The NFL said it was informed of Kaepernick’s decision 30 minutes before the workout was to begin.
“We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout,” the league said in a statement, saying it had made considerable effort to work cooperatively with Kaepernick’s representatives.
“Colin’s decision has no effect on his status in the league. He remains an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any club,” the statement added.
Representatives from at least 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams had been scheduled to attend the workout. Several made it to the new location.
Before the move, both protesters and supporters had waited for Kaepernick outside the Falcons’ facility.
One protester, waving a U.S. flag, held a sign that said “Colin Kaepernick un-American Loser. Get out of my town”.
Supporters included one follower wearing a Kaepernick jersey and displaying a sign that read “I’m with Kap”.
KNELT DURING ANTHEM
Among the first players to kneel during the pregame U.S. national anthem in protest against extrajudicial killings of black people by police, Kaepernick has been unable to find a team to sign him since 2017.
A second-round draft choice in 2011, he played with the 49ers for six seasons, leading them to the 2013 Super Bowl and the National Football Conference title game the next season.
During the third preseason game in 2016 he began sitting during the U.S. anthem.
The following week and during regular season, Kaepernick began kneeling as protest against social injustice.
He became a free agent after the 2016 season and remains unsigned.
Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against NFL owners in October 2017 after going unsigned as a free agent. The two sides resolved the grievance in February under a confidentiality agreement.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Ed Osmond, Nick Zieminski and Daniel Wallis)