Colin Kaepernick was having fun on Sunday.
The San Francisco 49ers played a rare competitive game, and the quarterback scored a touchdown as he submitted his best performance of the season.
The Niners didn’t win — of course — but Kap expressed a visible amount of joy that the Faithful haven’t seen in years.
Kaepernick’s audition for another team might have actually made progress against the Arizona Cardinals, but he wouldn’t acknowledge that’s what he’s doing when asked Tuesday.
“For me, it’s another opportunity to win football games,” Kaepernick said. “Focusing on the Patriots this week, what we can do to try and go out there and get a win, break this losing streak and get back on track.”
That’s a critical mass of cliche — even for a football player — but that’s how they’re trained to answer questions. That is, without telling the truth or lying.
The fact is, Kaepernick restructured his contract to get out of Santa Clara after this season. It’s been rumored for years that he and general manager Trent Baalke have a chilly relationship at best. And he isn’t getting ringing endorsements from his current coaches, either.
“I wouldn’t say that specifically,” offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said when asked if the offense is being run more effectively under Kaepernick than his predecessor, Blaine Gabbert. “I think our offense is growing. I think our offense in general is learning more and more about what we’re asking from them and where they need to be and all those types of situations. I wouldn’t say it’s specifically because of Kap.”
This upcoming week shouldn’t inspire hope for a win. It just seems incredibly unlikely that the New England Patriots — even without star tight end Rob Gronkowski — will lose a game at Levi’s Stadium in 2016. But the growth of Kaepernick, as it pertains to dealing with the media and rebounding from bad plays, has been impressive.
What bothers me about his long-term prospects in the league, though, is that he can’t stay away from so-called controversy, which isn’t a knock on his character but a problem for conservative NFL front offices.
It started with a protest of the national anthem, which grew to being a phenomenon across all level of sports and has gotten to the point that social issues dominate the discussion whenever it comes to the arguably best team in the South Bay.
“I’m comfortable with everything that I’m saying, what I represent and who I am,” he said when asked why his demeanor has grown from a borderline rude young man to a well-spoken activist/athlete. “At that point in time, there was a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable talking because I didn’t want my words used against me and now I know if I represent my words properly, what my stance is, who I am properly, that those words can’t be used against me.”
Kap has been good enough this season to deserve a chance to continue playing professional football — if that’s what he wants. I just fear that his growth as an outspoken black man will negate any gains he’s seen on the field.
(On a related note: If anyone could tell me why former SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam never got a fair shot in the league beyond one preseason, I’d love to hear it.)