Colin Kaepernick will not give up, and he is not going away.
On Tuesday, his friend and rap superstar J. Cole posted to social media a letter he says Kaepernick wrote to New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas in which Kaepernick asks the quarterback-needy franchise to sign him to its practice squad.
Cole wrote that he had Kaepernick’s permission to make the letter public, and got it only after convincing his friend that the public needed to see how hard Kaepernick works and how much he still wants to play in the NFL. Kaepernick liked the post on Instagram and his longtime partner Nessa Diab posted it to her IG stories, tacitly affirming that Cole had their blessing.
Dated Sept. 21, the letter has almost a sweetness to it, with Kaepernick respectfully and humbly asking Douglas for the opportunity, offering his thoughts on what the Jets could gain with the move. The letter also mentions four men associated with the NFL who would “vouch for my character, work ethic and ability”: Kaepernick’s first NFL head coach, Jim Harbaugh; another of his coaches with the San Francisco 49ers, Chip Kelly; Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Raiders owner Mark Davis.
“I would be honored and extremely grateful for the opportunity to come in and lead the practice squad,” Kaepernick wrote. “I would do this with the sole mission of getting your defense ready each week.”
Kaepernick noted that the Jets’ games in Weeks 4-6 were against mobile quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Jalen Hurts, and his presence would give New York’s defense “a truer read” on how to play that type of QB.
“This also would allow you guys as an organization to take a real look at where I’m at football wise, in game-like situations against an elite defense, while also not putting any competitive pressure on Zach [Wilson],” Kaepernick said. “I understand the importance of keeping him confident and focused as QB1, and I would only look to boost that confidence in any interactions that we may have.”
He went on to say, “Worse case scenario, you see what I have to offer and you’re not that impressed. Best case scenario, you realize you have a real weapon at your disposal in the event you ever need to use it. In either of these scenarios, I would be committed to getting your defense ready week in and week out, all season long, and I would wear that responsibility with a badge of honor.”
That makes sense. The maximum a veteran on practice squad can earn is $20,600 a week, relative peanuts to take a flyer on Kaepernick and see if he really has anything to offer.
Largely it was a long shot because the last time Kaepernick played in the league was the 2016 season, a year before recent Jets practice squad QB signee Trevor Siemian won his last game as a starter. (Siemian’s last start was Nov. 27, 2022 with the Chicago Bears.)
Chances are, this isn’t the first time Kaepernick has written such a letter to a team looking for a quarterback, just the first one we’ve gotten a chance to read.
It serves as another reminder of what the NFL took from him, the thing the league has worked to make many forget through its performative acts like painting “END RACISM” in end zones (remarkably, it hasn’t solved the issue) and having the uplifting hymn “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” performed before the Super Bowl. Yet, still in the background remain issues that dog the league like the Rooney Rule and its struggle to hire Black leaders.
For being on the right side of history, for being brave and using the best platform Kaepernick had available to him, for speaking out against injustice, the league black-balled a Super Bowl-starting quarterback in his prime. Just excommunicated him from its alleged meritocracy for the crime of … wait, there was no crime in kneeling.
Kaepernick’s letter offers another reason for fans of his to admire the 35-year-old, because how many would have given up by now? Kaepernick says he still wakes up every weekday for three-hour early morning training sessions on the field and in the weight room, hoping despite all evidence that one team will come calling with an opportunity. Not many have that kind of faith.
He got money from the NFL in a settlement after filing a collusion grievance against the league, and he has done some great things with some of those funds through his Know Your Rights Camp and its associated initiatives. But he still longs for the chance to be part of a team, to be in the locker room and meeting rooms and practice field.
Some will dismiss it as a publicity ploy, and all signs say they’d be wrong. Cole wrote that he had to talk Kaepernick into making the letter public, and Kaepernick over the past several years is rarely in the public spotlight.
The realist in us knows if there ever was a chance of Kaepernick getting another chance, that time is gone.
But that doesn’t mean we should forget what was taken from him, or recognize how much he’d love to get one more shot.