The Patriots had just pounded the Vikings 30-7, but on that day, Sept. 14, 2014, no reporter worth his press credential wanted to ask Mike Zimmer anything other than questions about Adrian Peterson being deactivated following an indictment for child abuse two days earlier.
Tired of the onslaught, Zim finally said, “Does anyone want to talk about the game? Do you want to talk about the Patriots?”
A coach pleading for the spotlight to be shifted to a 23-point blowout at home came to mind this week while trying to figure out why the NFL suddenly chose to pat itself on the back while announcing with great fanfare its plan to stage a workout for exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick in Atlanta on Saturday.
A cynic might raise an eyebrow and suggest The Shield was looking to divert our attention from something. Something like, oh, maybe 10 straight weeks of the worst officiating the league has seen in recent memory?
Whatever the reason, it did seem odd when the news broke Tuesday night. Or maybe Panthers safety Eric Reid put it best when he said, “It feels disingenuous. … It feels like a PR stunt.”
Reid and Kaepernick were teammates in San Francisco. Reid was the first player to join Kaepernick in taking a knee during the pregame national anthem to protest police shootings of black men.
Kaepernick last played in 2016, when he was 29 years old. He and Reid filed a grievance against the league through the NFLPA in October of 2017. The matter was resolved in February with terms undisclosed.
Case closed. So why would the league draw attention back to Kaepernick, a quarterback so shunned leaguewide that teams repeatedly turned to lesser players the past three years?
If no one has wanted him for three years, why would that change with a workout Saturday?
While the motives of the league were questioned, Kaepernick himself decided, again, to not play by the NFL’s rules. The Saturday workout at the Falcons’ practice facility was canceled when Kaepernick rejected the league’s guidelines, refusing to sign their waiver among other things, and chose instead to hold it at another location 60 miles away but open it to the media. Reports said of the 25 team scouts planning to attend, only eight ultimately watched him throw.
A cynic might suggest the image-is-everything NFL originally had an ulterior motive that trumped any altruistic objective. Perhaps the league just wanted to put a final rose-colored spin on the Kaepernick era by saying it did everything in its power to help this young man.
After all, the NFL can be pretty good at airbrushing its history. For example, its modern mantra about player safety being the No. 1 priority came only after the NFLPA dragged the Shield kicking and screaming into admitting there was a problem.
Kaepernick is 32 with a 32-32 career record and an unimpressie passer rating of 88.9. But he’s also 4-2 in the playoffs, led the 49ers to the Super Bowl during the 2012 season and has a 6.1-yard rushing average and 13 touchdowns on 375 carries.
The league has known for three years what he can do. For three years, teams had the ability to work him out and interview him. And now they must decide if Kaepernick is worth the distraction.
If he’s in shape, eager to play and fits a need that can help win games, then, yeah. After all, talented players winning games tends to dissipate distractions rather quickly (see Diggs, Stefon, Weeks 5-8). But one has to wonder if determining Kaepernick’s game readiness was the goal behind Saturday’s workout. As Reid essentially said, something just didn’t smell right.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org