KRAVITZ: It’s time for the Colts to pursue controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Bob Kravitz

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Chris Ballard loves competition; that’s been his mantra since the day he arrived in Indianapolis, stockpiling players who will compete for the many open spots on the Colts’ half-formed roster. Given that desire, and given the fact we have absolutely no idea when Andrew Luck might return, this next move makes so much sense, it hurts my brain just to write it:

Go sign Colin Kaepernick.

Go sign him now, before somebody else steps up to the plate, like a Miami Dolphins team that is now dealing with starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury. Or the Baltimore Ravens, who’ve been debating the possibility in recent days.

Sign him now, because Kaepernick’s presence would force the Colts’ offensive coaches to do what Jim Harbaugh did so brilliantly in San Francisco; namely, build a college-style offense around him. That takes time, but, then, the Colts still have plenty of time. If you bring in Kaepernick and ask him to run the same offense as Luck or Scott Tolzien or Stephen Morris, you’re doomed before you start. But show some creativity, give him the kind of offense that allows him to use his legs as well as his arm, and you could potentially have a quarterback who can win in this league while Luck recovers.

“No question, it would be a challenge for the coaches, regardless of any so-called baggage he might have,’’ said former NFL coach and current analyst Rick Venturi. “You’d have to re-shape your offense. But if you give him the kind of offense he had at [the University of] Nevada or in San Francisco, he’s shown he can be very productive.’’

Nothing against Tolzien, who seems like a nice guy and played reasonably well in his only start last year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but you can’t convince me that Tolzien is a better option than Kaepernick. Shoot, some of us thought Morris outplayed Tolzien in last year’s preseason games.

Tolzien is workmanlike at best, a short-term fill-in who has played in nine career NFL games and thrown two touchdown passes against seven interceptions.

Kaepernick, who is currently unemployed and, in my mind, blackballed for his national anthem protests, has started 58 games and has thrown 72 TD’s and 30 interceptions. One year ago, while playing for a truly horrific 49ers team, he had 16 TD passes and just four interceptions in 11 starts. In 2012, he led the Niners to the Super Bowl, where they lost to Baltimore 34-31. One year later, he got them to the NFC Championship Game, which they lost to Seattle.

This is a league that currently employs several substandard – OK, lousy -- backup quarterbacks, including the immortal and utterly hapless Blaine Gabbert. You’re going to tell me that Kaepernick isn’t a better player than him, or most of the backups in this league, including Tolzien?

But he sat and then kneeled for the National Anthem, and that makes all the difference.


What is going on here? This is a league that routinely employs domestic abusers, performance-enhancing drug users, all kinds of miscreants, and does so without batting an eye. This is a league where teams would sign Ted Bundy if he could tackle in the open field or run a 4.3 40. But a guy declines to stand for the National Anthem, and he can’t find a job in a league where quality quarterbacks are next-to-impossible to find.

I keep hearing about distractions, as if Kaepernick routinely stands up at team meetings wearing his Fidel Castro shirt and espouses the sociopolitical rhetoric of “Black Lives Matter.’’ Look, the young man has a distinct political viewpoint, one borne of study and his upbringing as an African-American in this country. He has not allowed himself to be fully defined by football. I mean, isn’t that a good thing?

Distractions…what a joke.

“Kap was awesome,’’ former Niners coach Chip Kelly said on an Adam Schefter podcast. “At the beginning of the year, he made a stance in terms of what he believes is right, and we recognized and supported his ability to do that, but he never brought that into the locker room. We had a meeting the day after the Green Bay game in the preseason [when he knelt for the anthem], and he explained to all the players his thought process and mindset for what he was doing. And there were some players who agreed with him and there were some players who didn’t agree with him.

“After that point, we heard from the outside about what a distraction it is. Except those people aren’t in our locker room and it never was a distraction. And Kap never brought that and never turned it into a circus. He came to work every day, extremely diligent in terms of his preparation, in terms of his work ethic in the weight room, in terms of his work ethic in the meeting room, and I really enjoyed Kap.’’

Let me ask this question: Is David Parry a distraction? He got drunk, got arrested and dropped both homophobic and misogynistic slurs on police officers this offseason. Where are all the complaints about the distractions he has caused? There haven’t been any complaints because there hasn’t been a distraction. Parry talked to the media on the first day of training camp, and that was it.

Look, Kaepernick isn’t for everybody, but he’s not trying to be for everybody. The National Anthem protests? I will fight to the death his right to protest in any form he chooses. Kaepernick, like so many of us, expect more and better from our government and our countrymen; he just chooses to use the anthem as one of his many platforms to protest oppression in all its forms – a platform he has used exceedingly well in most cases.

I don’t agree with everything. I would never celebrate Castro. I would never kneel or sit for the anthem. I would never wear socks depicting police officers as pigs. But I respect and, at some level, understand his point of view, freely acknowledging that people of color are not treated fairly in this country. Protest is central to all great movements. Protest is the highest form of patriotism. And silence is the enemy.

Kaepernick refuses to stay silent when he sees injustice, but somehow, in our twisted world, that’s a bad thing. Even if you disagree with the man and his methods, don’t you have to respect his willingness to put himself out there, even at the risk of being blackballed and becoming a pariah?

Look, we don’t know when Luck will be back. It could be tomorrow. It could be seven games into the season. Healing is an imperfect science. We all want the Colts to give us a return date, but they won’t because, well, they can’t.

CBS Sports’ Jason LaCanfora came by Colts’ camp Tuesday and raised some eyebrows, speaking with Chuck Pagano and then writing he has “heard plenty of rumblings about [Luck] starting the year on the physically unable to perform list.’’

A couple of things: First, this was not a hard-and-fast report that Luck would open the season on PUP. In fact, it was dropped into the seventh paragraph of his story. “Heard plenty of rumblings’’ is very different from saying “Luck will start the season on PUP.’’

Now, he could be right. Luck could start the season on PUP. And then, he could be wrong, and Luck will be ready for Sept. 10. I don’t think the Colts know. I don’t think the doctors know. I don’t think Luck knows. Not at this point, anyway.

Whatever the case may be, there’s a very good insurance policy available to the Colts, and his name is Kaepernick. All it will take is one team with an open mind.

In other words, don’t count on it.

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