Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Chip Kelly says that quarterback Colin Kaepernick was not a distraction last season as he staged a protest during the national anthem.
Kaepernick refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem before games to protest racial injustice in the United States. He originally sat during the anthem in preseason before modifying his protest to kneeling.
He continued his protest through the regular season, though he will reportedly stand for the anthem next season.
“There was zero distraction,” Kelly told The MMQB. “He met with the team immediately after [his first protest]. He met with the other team leaders. He explained his position and where he was coming from. And literally, that was it. Colin was focused on football. He was all about the team and trying to help us win.”
Kaepernick, 29, originally signed a $114 million, six-year contract with the 49ers in 2014, but restructured the contract down to a two-year deal. He opted out of his contract earlier this month and is now a free agent.
Kelly says he believes that Kaepernick is a top NFL quarterback.
"Do I think he is one of the top 64 quarterbacks in the world? There is no question. Does he have the ability to play quarterback on a winning team in the NFL? There is no question," Kelly told The MMQB.
Kaepernick threw for 2,241 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in 11 starts last season.
- Scooby Axson