Michigan’s Spring Game Proved There’s No Harm in Giving Colin Kaepernick an NFL Workout

As (some) people around the league show a willingness to speak up about difficult topics, someone should be ready to give the former Super Bowl QB his second chance.

The Lions, who were prominently represented in Ann Arbor, did not have their facility buried underneath a feverish letter-writing campaign from concerned citizens. Dan Campbell was not challenged to some kind of bareknuckle standoff (though it might seem silly to try something like that under any circumstances).

In other words, life moved on, which is probably what would happen if an NFL team were to formally work out or even sign Kaepernick right now.

Kirthmon F. Dozier/USA TODAY Network

This has been an interesting week for NFL truth telling. Reports from league meetings revealed that Pete Carroll dressed down owners over their collective inability to step out of their comfort zones and relate to coaching candidates of color the way they comfortably associate with their white counterparts. While it would have been cool if Carroll actually said all this in front of owners—he was in a meeting full of coaches and GMs—and while it would have been really cool if he said it during any of his dozens of press conferences each year or to his 2.1 million followers on social media, at least something critical about ownership regarding their laughably insular old-boys’-club hiring practices was uttered. That’s better than nothing being uttered at all. What a marked improvement a loud game of telephone seems to be when you’re used to seeing grown men duck behind a podium every time they’re asked about something remotely difficult in America.

In addition, Bruce Arians retired as head coach of the Buccaneers and handed the job over to Todd Bowles. He did this, in part, because he knew that if Tom Brady got hurt and the staff disbanded, Bowles would be left applying for crappy jobs with bad quarterbacks, which has largely been the story for coaches of color as far back as we can remember. Arians knew what a big deal it was for a Black head coach to lead a team with Brady under center.

Bundle these moments together and you have what seems to be a willingness—be it strategic or from the bottom of one’s own heart—to have the kind of conversations that initially catapulted Kaepernick off every team’s emergency QB shortlist. While we’re not equating what happened to the former 49ers quarterback and the plight of historically excluded coaching candidates (these are two wholly different buckets), we’re simply recognizing the awareness some prominent white figures have developed around football: that their life experiences and avenues to power may not be the same as some of their coworkers.

From that awareness, could we as a society have developed enough of a space to collectively digest Kaepernick’s trying out for an NFL team without losing our minds? Without hiding behind the most transparent of dodges? Without having to cover for all the NFL owners who may be the only ones left who truly care anymore? Could we have an honest conversation about what scouts saw on the field and accept the answer, whether it be this guy could start for 10 NFL teams right now or, he falls slightly above (or below!) Mike Glennon on our priority list?