Colin Kaepernick Had 2 Hours to Accept NFL Workout, More Details in ESPN Report

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistNovember 26, 2019

Free agent Colin Kaepernick participates in a workout for NFL football scouts and media Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019 in Riverdale, Ga. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)
Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

When the NFL reached out to Colin Kaepernick to arrange a workout in Atlanta that would be open to all 32 teams, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback had two hours to accept the offer.

Per ESPN's Howard Bryant, the league's Nov. 12 offer to Kaepernick included a list of "rigid" details:

"The workout would be conducted at the Falcons' training facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, about an hour northeast of Atlanta. There would be no media. The date would be Saturday, Nov. 16. The invitation also came with a hard deadline: Kaepernick had two hours to accept. Nalley called Kaepernick, who then called his best friend, Panthers safety Eric Reid. Kaepernick's legal team convened for a conference call."

Kaepernick tweeted the day the NFL reached out to his representatives:

Colin Kaepernick @Kaepernick7

I’m just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. I’ve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, can’t wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.

The NFL noted it chose the Saturday workout—while also rejecting a request from Kaepernick's team to move the date—because it "required an available NFL facility" and coaches and general managers with teams "would not collectively leave their teams during the week to attend a workout away from their facility, especially a workout as potentially loaded as this."

One league source told Bryant the Nov. 16 date was locked and that it was on the free agent to make themselves available when a workout is scheduled: "We thought the speed of the workout was for Colin's benefit. There aren't that many weeks left. We did not see the value in having some drawn-out, dramatic event."

Some sources close to Kaepernick called the NFL's stance on the workout a reflection to the "power and the arrogance of a $15 billion behemoth."

Ben Meiselas, one of Kaepernick's attorneys, noted their team ultimately agreed to the workout because Kaepernick has "been wanting a legitimate chance for three years."

Kaepernick's team became "furious" when the NFL, "almost immediately" after the two sides finished a call agreeing to keep the workout confidential and not leak information to the media, sent emails to the media informing them of the event and the NFL Players Association learned of it when everyone else did.

"They didn't give the 32 NFL teams a heads-up, but they gave the media one?" a Kaepernick source told Bryant. "Once they betrayed us on the confidentiality agreement, we knew what this was."

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, another dispute between Kaepernick and the NFL involved a list of attendees who would attend the workout:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

2/2 So Kaepernick camp says it was promised list of attendees and can prove it, and an NFL source said league did not make that promise. Another source in Kaepernick’s camp said he was on the phone call when the NFL said how it would provide the names of attendees. On it goes.

Bryant noted at midafternoon on Nov. 13 no team publicly committed to attending, and private conversations between team officials and agents were saying it was "clear the workout was a league event."

The NFL's stance was summed up in a matter-of-fact manner:  "It was happening. The league was holding a workout for Colin Kaepernick. It was spending money to do it. That, league sources say, should have superseded the lack of bouquets and hugs, mediation and détentes."

One major point of contention in the debate between the two sides was the waiver agreement. Kaepernick's representatives received what the NFL deemed a standard liability waiver used during the scouting combine and by teams when they workout players. 

Per Bryant, the one Kaepernick's camp received included distinct changes in two of the paragraphs that "created a wide range of rights that Kaepernick would potentially be forfeiting beyond injury."

That led to lawyers for Kaepernick and the NFL working together on Nov. 15 in an attempt to discuss details of the waiver so it could be signed in time for the workout the following day:

"League sources say a true collusion case couldn't have been stopped by that waiver. 'If that's all it took,' a league source says, 'we would've done something like this two years ago and saved ourselves a bunch of money.' The Kaepernick team's position was direct: If injury liability was the only motive, why wouldn't the NFL agree to its own standard injury waiver form? 'It would have been malpractice for an attorney to allow his client to sign that document,' Meiselas says."

This stalemate led to Kaepernick and his camp figuring out an alternative way to showcase his skills on a football field to "guarantee he didn't leave Atlanta without conducting a workout for all to see."

Kaepernick also requested an independent film crew in attendance to document the event for "trust and transparency" and wanting to ensure the NFL couldn't manipulate the footage it would send out to the media and teams to make it look like he was no longer good enough to play. 

One NFL source told Bryant those fears were without merit because they offered Kaepernick's team video footage immediately after the event wrapped up: "If we wanted to turn it into a publicity stunt, it would have been on NFL Network. It would have been on ESPN. We're celebrating our 100th anniversary. Why would we bring this upon ourselves?"

On the day of the event, with Kaepernick "convinced the NFL was never serious about having him back in the league and that the entire week was just a ploy to get him to waive his rights," his camp ultimately issued a statement announcing he would work out at an Atlanta-area high school:

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Colin Kaepernick’s workout at the Falcons’ training facility at 3 pm is off; his workout now will be at another Atlanta location at 4 pm today. Here is the official announcement: https://t.co/d9dIfJSbY3

After throwing for 58 minutes, with scouts from seven NFL teams in attendance, Kaepernick gave a statement to reporters:

Dan Wolken @DanWolken

Colin Kaepernick made a 90 second statement before leaving https://t.co/QlH2RTnLp5

Bryant added Jeff Nalley, Kaepernick's agent, sent footage of his client's workout to all 32 teams on Nov. 17 and hasn't heard back from anyone. 

Nalley noted Kaepernick is considering putting together another workout for teams that could potentially take place in Palm Beach, Florida between March 29 and April 1 when the NFL's league meetings are taking place and where every coach, general manager and owner will be. 

The Nov. 16 workout marked the first time Kaepernick has been able to do any on-field activity in front of NFL teams since his last game with the 49ers on Jan. 1, 2017. He's been an unrestricted free agent since opting out of his contract with San Francisco in March 2017.