Does Colin Kaepernick want to play football in 2017? There’s no doubt in the mind of the man training him five days a week. But to get an NFL team to make a move—and Seattle is showing real interest—it is time for Kaepernick himself to speak up
This is from Josh Hidalgo, the man who has been training Colin Kaepernick at a gym in New York City:
“Colin has been there since January, training with me five days a week. We have been getting ready for football as if he was a starting quarterback for an NFL team. When I read that people don’t know if Colin wants to play football … this guy’s been doing it five hours a day, five days a week, like he has a starting NFL job. And we don’t take days off.
“This isn’t a normal off-season, obviously. We are leaving no stone unturned. Working out, sleeping, eating, massages, getting ready to do it again the next day. Colin is not a guy at the clubs … He is in the gym. We knew he was going to be dissected. We knew any chink in the armor was going to be dissected, so there are no chinks in the armor. We knew this was the be-all, end-all for us. Colin came in around 220 pounds; he lost all that weight last year because he was recovering from three surgeries. And now he’s 230, a solid 230, and he’s eating perfectly. He is putting extremely clean nutrients in his body. He does not put any garbage in his body. He believes in clean fuel.
“I would just ask any team wondering anything about Colin: Come and see him. Come to the gym. Talk to him. They’ll see he’s in as good shape as a quarterback can be in. He’s ready to lead a team.”
I’ll get to my concern about Kaepernick—he needs to break his silence about football and his preparedness and his desire and what a team would get by signing him—in a few moments. But the man training Kaepernick is strident about the fact that he wouldn’t be training for this length of time and as intensely as he is if he wasn’t serious about playing football.
Kaepernick, 29, opted out of his contract (he would have been released by the 49ers had he not)* and has been working out trying to find a new home. But the man with 64 career starts (including playoffs), who came within one end-zone incompletion of winning a Super Bowl four years and three months ago, had gotten zero serious consideration from NFL teams, almost certainly because of his political activism, until this week. Michael Silver of NFL Network reported Monday that the Seahawks have reached out to Kaepernick's agent with some interest. The diminished interest from across the league stems from Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem last season as a 49er; though he will stand for the anthem this season (if he has a team). Teams are unsure of his priorities. His Twitter feed is a mélange of messages about social causes and his volunteerism and retweets of those supporting him.
He is the sole monetary backer (and appears frequently in support) of Know Your Rights Camp, informing minority youths of their civil rights. Last week the organization tweeted this:
It’s likely that either his activism or what some teams view as his large focus on something that’s not football is being held against him, and is preventing him from getting a shot at, at least, a backup role with an NFL team.
Hidalgo met Kaepernick in January. The former Niners quarterback, relocating from California, bought an apartment in lower Manhattan and was looking for a trainer, and mutual acquaintances got the two men together. Hidalgo, 28, is a former small-college defensive back who works as a personal trainer in Manhattan. He says he trains Kaepernick in speed and strength training and conditioning, and adds that Kaepernick throws, often.
“From the beginning, Colin laid it out: These are the things NFL teams will be concerned about—my weight, my diet,” Hidalgo says. “Then we took care of his explosiveness, and now there is nothing he cannot do. He’s healthy, he’s bigger, he’s faster than he was, and he’s ready. Anyone who has any questions, we’re more than willing to showcase this. We have nothing to hide. He is beyond ready to play quarterback in the NFL. When he gets the opportunity, it will not be wasted.”
I asked Hidalgo what he’d say to an NFL general manager or coach curious about whether or not to commit to Kaepernick.
Hidalgo thought for a moment, then said: “Colin loves playing football. Everything we’ve done is to get him ready to play NFL football. He is in phenomenal condition. If gets invited, he will not only show up and try his hardest, he will push to be a starter. He’s got that much talent. I just can’t believe people are so concerned about what he does off the field. You got guys going to clubs and doing all these other things off the field. The concern is that he’s helping people?
“He breathes football. He breathes helping people. Those are two qualities I want in the leader of my football team.”
* * *
If everything Hildalgo says is true—and there is no reason to think otherwise—then the 31 other NFL teams passing on Kaepernick are foolish. A point I raised in my Monday column was that Seattle would be a logical landing spot for Kaepernick, to back up Russell Wilson instead of a passel of four inexperienced passers (none of the four backups on the Seattle quarterback depth chart has started a game). And maybe that will happen now. It should.
Seattle needs to speak with Kaepernick, to steer through the muck and find out the answers to the questions he hasn't answered.
Do you still want to play?
Will you be overly focused on off-field stuff during the season?
In short: Will you be a distraction?
I’m not saying those questions are right, or justifiable. But they are real. And that’s why Kaepernick needs to be heard from.
“Maybe he should respond,” Hildalgo says. “I don’t know; it’s not up to me. I am honored to be part of his journey. But I could not fathom being in his situation.
“In my eyes, this is heartbreaking. You have an individual who’s willing to take a stand for the greater good of people, and he is being punished for it.”
* — An earlier version of this article said that Kaepernick had been released by the 49ers. The MMQB regrets the error.
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