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Colin Kaepernick has sealed his NFL fate with collusion grievance

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 10/17/2017 Manish Mehta

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Colin Kaepernick delivered a salvo Sunday that will effectively end his NFL career. Desperation and frustration might have prompted his collusion grievance against the league stemming from his continued unemployment, but this much is clear: The polarizing quarterback will never take another snap under center again.

Kaepernick’s transition from signal caller to social justice advocate is now complete. His NFL life is over.

Perhaps it was a fait accompli. Kaepernick, after all, barely drew interest from teams since parting ways with the 49ers in March. Only the Seahawks and Ravens showed a modicum of interest before going in different directions.

The final indignity occurred a couple weeks ago when the Titans eschewed Kaepernick after starter Marcus Mariota suffered a hamstring injury, according to Pro Football Talk. Tennessee worked out journeymen quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, T.J. Yates, Matt McGloin and Matt Barkley. (They signed Weeden.)

This legal move was a Hail Mary or publicity stunt, depending on your point of view. Regardless, there’s virtually no chance that a team would be willing to sign Kaepernick now.

The justification for teams to steer clear had been that Kaepernick’s football ability simply wasn’t good enough at this stage of his career to warrant the accompanying distraction/circus/noise/attention. Some coaches didn’t believe his skill set was a scheme fit, an unpopular but fair point.

However, there’s no doubt that the 29-year-old Kaepernick’s skills hadn’t diminished enough to keep him off any roster. Even the biggest Kaepernick critic would concede that he’s deserving of at least a backup gig somewhere.

This grievance will all but seal Kaepernick’s NFL fate even if it shouldn’t. Owners uninterested in customer backlash a few months ago surely will have no interest in entertaining the thought of adding the polarizing figure today.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy made it clear that his team won’t be in the market for a replacement after Aaron Rodgers’ potentially season-ending broken collarbone suffered Sunday.

It seems like ages ago when Kaepernick turned the league upside-down with his dual-threat skills that got San Francisco within one play of back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. He was carving up defenses, kissing his bicep after crossing the end zone and turning the NFL into his own personal playground.

Then, the league adjusted. His growth and development slowed. The pack caught up to him.

His peaceful kneeling protests during the national anthem designed to bring attention to police brutality and racial inequality turned him into the most polarizing player in sports. His ultimate exile has created a visceral reaction. The mere mention of his name sparks endless debate.

He has followed through on his promise to fight for his causes, but it has come with a price: NFL owners don’t want him anymore.

“If I was Colin Kaepernick, if I was in his shoes, I would probably feel like I was being blackballed,” former teammate Jeremy Kerley told me recently. “So, I just think it sucks. It sucks for him, because he’s good enough to be on a football team.”

Although Kerley maintained that “I know the dude wants to play football,” Kaepernick almost certainly won’t get another chance in the NFL.

The specter of Kaepernick has hovered over the NFL even in his absence. Several players will be at the owners meeting in New York this week to discuss the national anthem protests in the wake of firm positions from Donald Trump and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Proving collusion, however, will be a Herculean task for Team Kaepernick absent hard evidence. Although there are clear provisions in the Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibiting clubs from working in concert to conspire against players, what are the chances of Kaepernick’s attorney unearthing a smoking gun (texts, emails, etc.) implicating owners in that regard?

NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah told ESPN in May that there was no evidence of collusion stemming from Kaepernick’s inability to find work. If the quarterback proves otherwise, it could trigger a termination of the CBA.

Owners have every right to take the thanks-but-no-thanks path if they believe it will hurt their business. How will Kaepernick be able to prove that owners plotted to keep him out of the NFL?

It’s not going to happen.  

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