If any NFL team was going to sign Colin Kaepernick, it seemed likely to be the Detroit Lions. But no.
The Lions have been in quarterback crisis all season, with 11 different players filling the position on the roster in 2019. First-string quarterback Matthew Stafford has been out with a broken back for four games, and second-stringer Jeff Driskel last week went onto injured reserve with a hamstring injury.
At the same time, Detroit was one of eight teams that followed Kaepernick to a private workout near Atlanta on Nov. 16 after he blew off a larger tryout arranged by the league. According to an ESPN report last week, Kaepernick’s representatives think the Lions were one of the teams that requested the tryout in the first place.
And some Detroit fans and former franchise defensive end Cliff Avril have voiced support from bringing on Kaepernick, 32, whose talent to controversy ratio seems to have put off most other teams.
However, on Saturday, the Lions instead signed Kyle Sloter, 25, from the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. Sloter is in his third season after going undrafted out of Northern Colorado and has never thrown a pass in a regular season NFL game.
The Lions also added Joe Callahan, 26, to their practice squad, signing him away from Greenbay’s. Detroit will be the seventh NFL stop for Callahan since he joined the league in 2016 as an undrafted free agent out of Division III Wesley College. He saw his only game action in 2017 with Greenbay, throwing for 11 yards in seven attempts.
Why the Detroit Lions signed quarterbacks not named Colin Kaepernick
Kaepernick has claimed that the NFL is blackballing him over his social justice activism. He last appeared on an NFL roster in 2016, when he was a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. During the season, he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence against African Americans. The move inspired fans and angered critics, including President Donald Trump.
Last month, Kaepernick announced that he wanted to make an NFL comeback after three seasons out of the game. He was scheduled to tryout for about 25 NFL teams near Atlanta on Nov. 16. But at the last minute, he raised objections about the league’s terms. The quarterback then held an alternative workout at a nearby high school, which received heavy media coverage.
Kaepernick showed up to the event wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Kunta Kinte,” the name of a fictional American slave made famous by the 1977 “Roots” TV miniseries. He told assembled reporters that he is ready to play “anywhere” in the NFL, but said the league is “running.”
“I’ve been ready for three years, I’ve been denied for three years. We all know why,” he said. “So we’re waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams and [league commissioner] Roger Goodell to stop running. Stop running from the truth, stop running from the people.”
While some fans sided with Kaepernick against the NFL, many commentators said he had proved he is not serious about playing football.
“You don’t wanna work. You just wanna make noise, and you wanna control the narrative,” said ESPN host Stephen A. Smith in a Twitter video after the stunt. “It’s over. Colin Kaepernick’s aspiration in the NFL, for an NFL career. It’s over.”
“None of them have had any interest”
Kaepernick’s agent, Jeff Nalley, later told ESPN that he sent footage of the quarterback’s recent workout to all 32 NFL teams. But he said “none of them have had any interest.”
According to ESPN’s Howard Bryant, Nalley also said Kaepernick is considering following the NFL owners to their March meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, and holding a second workout nearby.
On “The Adam Carolla Show” podcast last week, Kaepernick’s attorney Mark Geragos said two teams had shown interest in the quarterback. He did not offer any names, but said one team “is legitimately in need of a quarterback” and has an owner that doesn’t care about Kaepernick’s reputation.
The New York Post suggested the team in question could be the Carolina Panthers, which in February signed Kaepernick’s friend and fellow anthem-kneeler Eric Reid, a safety.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Cliff Avril as a former Detroit Lions quarterback. Avril played defensive end.