ESPN has always been friendly turf for Colin Kaepernick and that was especially true on Wednesday, the day after news came out about the radical former pro quarterback/anthem kneeler getting an NFL tryout this Saturday. The First Take and Around The Horn programs passed around plenty of Kaepernick Kool-Aid.
First Take's Stephen A. Smith (in photo, right) expects to see Kaepernick in uniform. His co-host, Max Kellerman, is very hopeful. Additionally, all four panelists on Around The Horn were solidly planted in Kaepernick's camp of media friendlies.
"Here's the deal," Smith said. "I've been told that Colin Kaepernick -- he has to throw the ball into the stands and play like complete garbage or run his mouth incessantly, whether it be via Instagram, Twitter or whatever, really, really speaking out being vigilant -- I'm sorry, being, you know, rebellious or whatever the case may be, in order for him not to have a job in the NFL within the next week or two."
Kellerman said Saturday's tryout and interview of Kaepernick amounts to NFL "butt covering" for a team(s) interested in signing him. Fearing a fan backlash, these teams could use the NFL for cover because it arranged the event. Kellerman would be "happily surprised" if a team hires Kaepernick.
"You have the NFL shield as cover to insulate you from the shrapnel of criticism in the event that you may elect not to want Colin Kaepernick," Kellerman said. "That's why the league is conducting the workout, so the individual teams don't have to worry about the heat."
Around The Horn program host Tony Reali also questioned the motives of the NFL. The panel of Ramona Shelburne, Sarah Spain, Bob Ryan and Frank Isola were all in the tank for Kaepernick in his desperation to return to the good graces of the NFL.
Spain, a writer for ESPNw, said she wanted Kaepernick to "feel positive about an opportunity for him to go out on his own terms, to have a chance to prove he has been working every day, ready to go for the last two years and 10 months":
"All of this is concerning to me. If any of these teams have been interested, why haven't they reached out to him directly? Is it they need some sort of cover if they want to show up and take a look at him. They didn't want to be the team to stick their necks out? I am more concerned about them showing up. He looks great, no one signs him, and it is washed. It doesn't feel like everybody is above board."
An NBA insider for ESPN, Shelburne said, " ... I am choosing to see this as a positive step forward. For three years, there has been nothing, and now there is something. I think this is institutional cover. There are teams interested in Colin Kaepernick."
Ryan, of the Boston Globe, told Reali to "put me down to being suspicious." The NFL's gesture toward Kaepernick is purely C.Y.A., Ryan adds. "It doesn't pass my smell test at all."
Ryan said Kaepernick's "calling card is superior athleticism, and I still think he retains that. Technically I think he could come back, and I think he could be an asset. We all know he should be. I think he could be if he gets a legitimate shot."
To Isola, the former New York Daily News sports writer, Dallas would be a good landing spot for Kaepernick.
Reali asked Ryan who gave the Patriots their only loss this season (it was Baltimore) and said New England could benefit from putting Kaepernick on the scout team to prepare for the Ravens and QB Lamar Jackson come playoff time.
"I think that would be a very logical team for that very reason," Ryan answered. "They have a 42-year-old quarterback (Tom Brady), and one play away from disaster without a proven back up. It would make a lot of sense."