Mike Freeman’s 10-Point Stance: Just When You Thought Kaep Was Done, He’s Back
1. Colin Kaepernick isn’t ready to throw in the towel
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Colin Kaepernick by now, it’s that he won’t go down without a fight. So it should come as no surprise that he is, well, fighting.
Kaepernick filed a grievance against the NFL in October. The core of his argument is that the league colluded to keep him out of football after Kaepernick began protesting police violence against unarmed American citizens.
You would have to believe in elves, talking dogs and unicorns that poop gold to not see that NFL teams have blackballed Kaepernick. Still, the debate has launched numerous arguments, memes and talking points.
There was little else to do in the months of silence that greeted Kaepernick’s grievance filing. Leaks were all but nonexistent.
Then this week, a dam burst.
Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported Tuesday that Kaepernick’s legal team wants to depose a number of NFL people, including Roger Goodell and his wife, Jane Goodell.
The Wall Street Journal in October published a story that Jane Goodell was using a Twitter account under the name of "Jones smith" to anonymously defend her husband.
Robinson added that at least nine other NFL sources might be deposed, including three owners (Dallas’ Jerry Jones, New England’s Robert Kraft and Houston’s Bob McNair), two head coaches (Baltimore’s John Harbaugh and Seattle’s Pete Carroll), two general managers (the Ravens’ Ozzie Newsome and the Seahawks’ John Schneider) and two executives (executive vice president of operations Troy Vincent and senior vice president of player engagement Arthur McAfee).
CBSSports.com’ Jason La Canfora reported Kaepernick’s team also wants to interview John Schnatter, the former Papa John’s CEO (better collusion, better depositions, Papa John’s). Schnatter blamed declining pizza sales on the movement that grew from Kaepernick’s protests and is friends with Jerry Jones.
What this all goes to show is that Kaepernick isn’t ready to back down or settle. At least not yet.
Once again, these latest salvos from Kaepernick can be spun two ways.
To those who tired of the former Niners quarterback and his cause long ago, this is the latest chapter in the story of a player who "just doesn’t get it."
To the people who admire Kaepernick, though, this is more evidence of his willingness to not back down to the most powerful organization in sports. He remains a hero to a lot of people, and his tenacity is an important part of his story.
2. Did the Colts end up with the better choice?
The worst part about Josh McDaniels agreeing to coach the Colts and then backing out was that he left a large cast of assistants he was angling to hire in his wake. These are men who agreed to work with McDaniels, told their employers they were leaving and then had to tell them they were staying.
In the end, however, as good a coach as McDaniels is (and he is a good coach), the Colts may have stumbled into a better situation in hiring Frank Reich.
Most importantly, the Colts got someone who wants to be in Indy and who didn’t have any second thoughts.
3. The Jaguars’ transformation
The Jaguars announced Monday they will remove tarps that cover the west upper deck of EverBank Field. The team said this will provide an extra 3,501 low-priced seats.
The removal of the tarps, long a source of embarrassment for the franchise, is just one more indicator of how the culture is changing in Jacksonville. This is no longer a loser that’s little more than a source of jokes. The Jaguars, for the first time in a long time, are a force in this league.
When was the last time anyone said that?
4. Renaissance man
Former running back Rashad Jennings, who played for the Jaguars, Raiders and Giants from 2009 to 2016, retired in December. When I interviewed Jennings this week about life after football, he said something seldom heard from players around the league.
"I’ve never had to transition out of football," he said, "because I was always transitioning out of football."
Translation: Jennings loved the sport, but he spent time preparing for life after it while he played it. The smartest players do.
"I was always thinking about what’s next," said Jennings, who was made available by 1-800-Flowers.com.
He won Dancing with the Stars in May. He writes poetry, authored a book, does archery, plays the guitar, is starting a clothing line, runs a charitable foundation and is starting an acting career. Other than that, he’s a real underachiever.
Jennings is a good example of how a player can both simultaneously be a dedicated player while also thinking of his future after the sport.
With all he has going on, he still misses the NFL—or at least, part of it.
"What I miss is the locker room," Jennings said. Then he laughed. "What I don’t miss is practice."
5. Another Pats conspiracy theory debunked
One of the biggest lies about the Patriots is that the officials rig games in their favor. It’s a conspiracy theory that has floated around in traditional and non-traditional media circles for years. But that’s all it is: a misguided theory that isn’t true. And if you want proof, look no further than this latest Super Bowl and the Eagles’ brilliant trick play at the end of the first half.
By now everyone knows the touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton to quarterback Nick Foles as "Philly special." It was one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history. It was also, according to rules guru Mike Pereira of Fox, illegal.
"I know the league came out and said that it’s a judgment call, which it is," Pereira told Clark Judge of the Talk of Fame Network. "The down judge, who was the one [with the play] on his side of the field … they felt that it was his judgment and [receiver Alshon Jeffrey] was close enough. Well, he wasn’t. They lined up wrong."
If the Patriots get favorable calls, why didn’t the refs blow the whistle on that trick play? What better time to enact a conspiracy than in the Super Bowl?
Illegal or not, it was a beautiful play call, one that will be talked about for decades. If not forever.
6. The 49ers have a problem
All teams take chances when it comes to draft prospects. They will pick a player knowing he has problems and then cross their fingers that those problems were temporary.
That’s exactly what the 49ers did when they selected linebacker Reuben Foster with the 31st pick last year. Remember, at the scouting combine, he got into an altercation with one of the medical workers. That red flag was the size of Kansas. I can’t remember the last time a prospect was sent home from the combine for essentially arguing with a hospital worker.
The incident prompted some teams to remove Foster from their boards entirely, I was told at the time. To those teams, Foster’s actions signaled a temper problem. If you get out of control at the combine, they thought, what will happen under the hot lights of the NFL?
The 49ers were not one of those teams, and it’s blown up in their faces. Foster’s been arrested twice in the past month, the last time for suspicion of domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon.
There’s due process still to take place, but at first blush, it appears the 49ers should have taken Foster’s combine transgression a bit more seriously.
7. Garoppolo deal probably raised some eyebrows
Just a quick note on what the Jimmy Garoppolo contract—with a total value of $137.5 million, but a real value of $74.1 million—means to the rest of the NFL. And what I mean by "the rest of the NFL" is Aaron Rodgers.
We saw what happened last season to the Packers without Rodgers. The team went 7-9, and general manager Ted Thompson lost his job. That’s how much Rodgers means to the Packers. He and Tom Brady are the most valuable players in the league. If Garoppolo, with all of seven starts to his name, can get what he got, imagine what Rodgers is worth. A continent? A planet? A starship so he can visit his planet?
I think Rodgers, who will be eligible to be a free agent in 2020, will get paid big time, soon. He’s going to break several banks when he does.
8. Derek Carr, your career is calling
Excellent segment on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football about which quarterback will face the most pressure next season. To me, the answer is simple. It’s Derek Carr.
He’ll be coached by a coach notorious for how hard he is on quarterbacks in Jon Gruden. And after Carr failed to get the Raiders into the playoffs in 2017, there are people now wondering if his good seasons were a fluke. Some have even whispered aloud that they wonder if he might be a bust.
That’s a lot to answer for in a single season. Good luck, Derek Carr, you’ll need it.
9. The Giants make an interesting choice
Mike Shula was reportedly named the new offensive coordinator for the Giants on Monday, per NFL Network’s Kimberly Jones. It’s a strange hire.
Why? As offensive coordinator for the Panthers from 2013 to 2017, his tenure was mixed, at best. In each of the past two years, Carolina ranked 19th in offense (it was 28th in passing last season), and that’s with Cam Newton under center.
Now Shula goes to New York to try to stabilize the passing offense and career of Eli Manning, who’s nine years older than Newton and has a lot less talent around him.
Good luck, Giants.
10. Where’s the NFL’s Coach Pop?
Some of you might be angered by what you’re going to read. Some of you might agree. Everyone should listen, however, to the words of San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Asked about why the NBA should honor Black History Month, Pop didn’t mince words:
"We live in a racist country," he said, "… and it’s always important to bring attention to it, even if it angers some people."
Popovich’s words bring to mind the reality that no NFL coach speaks this way. Ever. Even the ones with job security. And yes, they are asked questions like this all the time, particularly during the players’ protests against social injustices.
The reasons why they stay fairly silent are varied and would take 10 billion words to explain.
But it’s noticeable. Really noticeable.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
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February 14, 2018 at 04:00AM