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Kaepernick's NFL career is not over, says former college team-mate

Press Association logoPress Association 13/07/2017 By Liam Blackburn, Press Association Sport
Colin Kapernick is still unemployed: American Football - NFL International Series 2013 - San Francisco 49ers v Jacksonville Jaguars - Wembley Stadium © PA ARCHIVE IMAGES American Football - NFL International Series 2013 - San Francisco 49ers v Jacksonville Jaguars - Wembley Stadium

Colin Kaepernick's former college team-mate Joel Bitonio is confident the quarterback will play in the NFL again, although his continued unemployment has raised uncomfortable questions for the league.

After taking the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, Kaepernick remains unsigned following a campaign where his passer rating - a statistic used to measure a quarterback's efficiency - ranked 17th among the league's regular starters.

However, Kaepernick remains without a job four months after opting out of his deal in the Bay Area, raising fears there may be a widespread reluctance to sign him following the kneel-down protests over perceived racial injustice he staged during the American anthem last season.

Film director Spike Lee said it was "mad fishy" Kaepernick was still a free agent, while Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, whose team came close to signing the 29-year-old, suggested the quarterback was being 'blackballed' by franchises because they were uneasy with him raising racial and political issues in a sporting environment.

Others, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, have dismissed the theory of a league-wide shunning of Kaepernick, who has struggled with inconsistency and injuries, while his unconventional playing style makes him less of a fit in many systems.

Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Bitonio went to university with Kaepernick at Nevada and expects him to get another NFL shot somewhere down the line.

Asked about Kaepernick's continued unemployment, Bitonio told Press Association Sport: "It's hard for me to be in the head of owners.

"As a player I think he's a solid player and I think some day some team is going to pick him and he'll play.

"You just never know the situation - you don't know if he wants to be a starter, a back-up, you don't know how all that is going to work out. I think he'll find a place.

"He's very passionate about what he's standing up for right now and I think that's what he's focussed on as a person right now. I wish him the best if he gets back in the league."

Four-time Super Bowl winner Joe Montana, one of Kaepernick's predecessors as a 49ers quarterback, had suggested the signal caller could be a locker-room distraction, but Bitonio rejected such a notion.

"I've kind of lost touch with him recently, but when we were in college I had nothing but good things to say about the guy," he added.

"I think he's a fine team-mate. I think he's standing up for what he believes in. As a team-mate I don't think he's walking around pushing anything on anybody or anything like that.

"He was always good in the locker-room. He's kind of a quiet person when he's in the locker-room, from when I've been around him he's always been mellow and quiet."

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