Since he defended Colin Kaepernick’s outspokenness last season when he was employed by a rival, it was no surprise Tuesday when DE Michael Bennett supported the idea of hiring the free agent, at least from the standpoint of a locker-room fit.
Bennett wasn’t playing general manager, nor was there further news on whether Kaepernick and the Seahawks have had talk about coming to Seattle as a minimum-pay backup to QB Russell Wilson.
Bennett told ESPN 710 radio Tuesday that he foresaw no issues with Kaepernick’s social activism, since he and several veterans already doing some similar things.
“A person that’s dedicating their life to creating change, why wouldn’t you want that type of leadership in your locker room?” he said. “Why wouldn’t you want to give (a chance to) a person that’s dealt with issues, dealt with people calling him wanting to kill him, because of his choices in life? So I don’t know why people feel like that is a problem.”
The decision of the former 49ers star to kneel during the pre-game national anthem to protest racial injustice and a spate of deaths of unarmed African-American men at the hands of police, made him a figure of national controversy that extended beyond sports.
Numerous high school football programs nationwide, including Seattle’s Garfield High School, made similar gestures in support of Kaepernick’s stand. But ESPN reported March 1, a week ahead of NFL free agency, that Kaepernick let it be known that he would not continue the kneel-down. That too drew criticism over apparent hypocrisy.
He started 11 games last season for the 2-14 Niners. His quarterback rating of 90.7 was 17th in the NFL, and he emerged from the season uninjured. Since then, he reportedly has gone off his vegan diet and is in heavy training.
SI.com’s Peter King posted a transcript Tuesday after interviewing Kaepernick’s trainer, Josh Hidalgo, at a gym in New York City:
I would just ask any team wondering anything about Colin: Come and see him. Come to the gym. Talk to him. They’ll see he’s in as good shape as a quarterback can be in. He’s ready to lead a team.
Colin has been there since January, training with me five days a week. We have been getting ready for football as if he was a starting quarterback for an NFL team. When I read that people don’t know if Colin wants to play football . . . this guy’s been doing it five hours a day, five days a week, like he has a starting NFL job. And we don’t take days off.
“This isn’t a normal off-season, obviously. We are leaving no stone unturned. Working out, sleeping, eating, massages, getting ready to do it again the next day. Colin is not a guy at the clubs . . . he is in the gym. We knew any chink in the armor was going to be dissected, so there are no chinks in the armor. We knew this was the be-all, end-all for us.
Colin came in around 220 pounds; he lost all that weight last year because he was recovering from three surgeries. And now he’s 230, a solid 230, and he’s eating perfectly. He is putting extremely clean nutrients in his body.”
Monday, NFL.com’s Mike Silver reported that GM John Schneider made contact with Kaepernick’s agent the previous Friday. On ESPN 710 Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll answered a question by saying the Seahawks were looking at all available backup quarterbacks, but mentioned none by name.
Trevone Boykin, a rookie last year who played little, is the incumbent backup. But he was a passenger in a vehicle that injured seven people outside a bar in Dallas. He was charged with public intoxication and possession of marijuana. Both charges are misdemeanors, but are apparently a probation violation from an earlier episode in San Antonio when he struck a police officer. The Dallas situation is still pending.
Bennett said the Seahawks were the right place for Kaepernick — if he’s willing to accept far less play and pay.
“I think Kaepernick getting an opportunity to be on our team would be really cool, really a good space for him,” Bennett said, “because you have a coach like Coach Carroll, who’s up for challenges like that. You have an owner (Paul Allen) who understands and gives to homeless. You’ve got players on your team that give back in the community. You’ve got Russell Wilson, who shows our team is built around community. So this is a perfect place for him.
“We all talk about the same issues. It’s just that he had the courage to be able to step up.”
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio Tuesday speculated that the Seahawks’ alleged interest was something the NFL, sensitive to the claims by many that Kaepernick was being blacklisted, “wants it out there that someone/anyone is talking to Kaepernick about a job.”
He cited a quote from Carroll in March at the owners’ meeting in Phoenix that didn’t sound like Kaepernick was a fit.
“Well, we’ll see,” Carroll said then. “We’ll see about the quarterback position. Colin has been an effective player, and he’s had some ups and downs in his playing career. I hope he finds a spot. I don’t know if it’s going to be with us.”
It’s also possible that Kaepernick will decide to pass on any interest by Seattle for now and wait until the inevitable injuries occur in training camp and preseason that would open up a starting QB job.
It is harder to imagine the Seahawks wanting to do the NFL a PR favor than it is to see the Seahawks fearing another Wilson injury that would force the use of an inexperienced backup — especially one whose off-field troubles may keep him off the field.