RIVERDALE, Ga. — Colin Kaepernick’s lengthy journey from Tremendous Bowl quarterback to N.F.L. exile to media machine made a pit cease at Charles R. Drew Excessive College south of Atlanta on Saturday.
There, in shorts and a black tank high, the previous San Francisco 49ers star zipped passes to 4 receivers operating routes on the soccer discipline. Eight N.F.L. scouts seemed on, certainly one of them later calling the efficiency “spectacular.” Because the solar light and the temperature dropped, a pair hundred folks stood alongside a chain-link fence behind one finish zone and cheered.
“Keep targeted, man! We imagine in you!” one fan yelled.
The query lately is who to imagine. Half N.F.L. tryout, half public rally, half media circus, the impromptu exercise was put collectively in just a few hours after a contentious week of negotiations between the quarterback and the league. It was the newest twist in a showdown that has captivated the sports activities world since Kaepernick started kneeling throughout the nationwide anthem in the beginning of the 2016 season.
After signing autographs for followers, many carrying his 49ers jersey, Kaepernick returned to the sector and spoke to the media for the primary time in years.
“I’ve been ready for 3 years, I’ve been denied for 3 years and also you all know why,” Kaepernick mentioned. “I’ve been prepared. I’m staying prepared.”
Then he piled right into a van and drove off, leaving as many, if no more, questions on his future as there have been when he started the day. A number of the scouts appeared impressed, however does any crew need the eye that’s more likely to include signing Kaepernick? His arm seemed robust, however at this level within the season, which crew wants him? And on and on.
As with a lot of the quarterback’s latest interactions with the league, Saturday’s exercise was the results of unhealthy blood poured on unhealthy blood. On Tuesday, the league known as Kaepernick’s agent and gave him two hours to accept a proposal for Kaepernick to work out on the Falcons’ coaching facility an hour north of Atlanta in entrance of all 32 groups — the identical 32 groups which have declined to ask him to work out for the previous three seasons.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, egged on by Jay-Z, the music impresario who’s now advising the league on social justice points, offered the olive branch to Kaepernick so the groups might see for themselves whether or not the 32-year-old quarterback nonetheless has the abilities to play within the N.F.L.
Nike, which works with each Kaepernick and the N.F.L., was all set to run an commercial that includes the quarterback. Not like the “Dream Loopy” industrial that ran during the opening telecast of final season, the N.F.L. permitted this one.
The advert didn’t run on Saturday afternoon as deliberate.
The mistrust between the league and Kaepernick is profound and maybe irreversible. In 2017, Kaepernick accused the league of blackballing him due to his resolution to kneel throughout the nationwide anthem. The 2 sides settled their variations when the N.F.L. paid Kaepernick a multimillion-dollar settlement in February.
The authorized matter settled, groups had been freed as much as name him. But no groups did.
Then, out of the blue, the league provided Kaepernick a one-time probability to indicate his stuff.
“One thing didn’t odor proper,” Jeff Nalley, Kaepernick’s agent, mentioned after the exercise.
The 2 sides fought over whether or not Kaepernick can be offered an inventory of which N.F.L. personnel can be current. They tussled over whether or not media can be allowed to observe, and over whether or not Kaepernick might deliver his personal movie crew to the exercise.
The ultimate straw was, as it’s with so many issues involving the N.F.L., a authorized affair. Kaepernick and the 4 receivers signed normal waivers that indemnified the league in the event that they acquired injured. The N.F.L. despatched again a far longer kind with various different restrictions. Kaepernick’s attorneys rejected what they known as an “uncommon legal responsibility waiver” as a precondition.
At 2:30 p.m. Japanese time, with about two dozen scouts ready on the Falcons’ facility, Kaepernick introduced that the exercise can be moved to a highschool an hour away. Many scouts threw up their arms and headed straight to the airport. Dozens of reporters and cameramen drove south to the highschool discipline.
Kaepernick arrived round 4:10 p.m. and drove onto the sector of the out of doors stadium. The highschool, simply outdoors Atlanta, is about 60 miles southwest of the Falcons’ facility.
He got here out and stretched, joked with pals and hugged his former teammate Eric Reid, who knelt with Kaepernick once they performed for the 49ers. Reid performs for the Carolina Panthers.
Whereas the vibe at the highschool was pleasant, with cheers and encouragement, the gang in entrance of the Falcons’ facility earlier on Saturday was blended, with protesters on either side of the primary entrance to the Falcons’ apply facility.
On one aspect, Jim McIntyre stood with a picket signal that mentioned “Stand Up For the Flag” that he and his spouse made the evening earlier than. McIntyre, who lives on the town, mentioned he supported Kaepernick’s proper to free speech however believed his type of protest was disrespectful to the flag, regardless of Kaepernick’s assertions on the contrary.
McIntyre mentioned he stopped watching N.F.L. video games when Kaepernick and different gamers started kneeling as a result of it made him uncomfortable. “I actually want the N.F.L. would have a coverage to make gamers stand for the anthem,” he mentioned.
On the opposite aspect of the doorway, Scott Brooks sat in a garden chair holding a handwritten signal that learn “I’m With Kap.” Brooks drove two hours from Tennessee to indicate his help. Carrying Kaepernick’s purple 49ers jersey, he mentioned that he agreed with the quarterback’s objective of elevating consciousness of police brutality towards African-People.
“I hate to see it overshadowed” by the controversy over his resolution to kneel, Brooks mentioned. “He misplaced his job for not even committing against the law.”
About two dozen alumni of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity additionally arrived to help Kaepernick, who was a member in school. They mentioned they admired his willingness to kneel to shine a light-weight on police brutality towards African-People.
Some drivers slowed down and honked help, although it was typically unclear who they had been supporting.
Later at the highschool, the one ambiguity was the place Kaepernick will go subsequent. Nalley, his agent, mentioned he didn’t count on many golf equipment to name.
“I hope so, however to be sincere, I’m a bit pessimistic as a result of I’ve talked to all 32 groups” already, he mentioned, and none have provided Kaepernick a tryout.
Kaepernick added his personal coda that means that Saturday’s tryout is just one chapter in an ongoing tug-of-war.
“I’m able to go wherever,” he mentioned. “The ball’s of their courtroom. We’re able to go.”
Kevin Draper contributed reporting from New York.