Colin Kaepernick workout shows the NFL is finally making real progress and getting it right

The NFL's efforts to take the unprecedented step of coordinating a league-wide workout for Colin Kaepernick must be applauded. It's a testament to the way Kaepernick has conducted himself and the way his lawyers and representatives have persevered.

It was, simply, the right thing to do, regardless of whether or not anything like it has ever taken place before. In a season in which backup quarterbacks have dominated the narrative and injuries have become rampant at the all-important position, the universal shunning of Kaepernick for even a workout had gone on long enough. It was a bad look for all involved and it never should have come to this for a league that has embraced second chances for men who have been accused and convicted of far worse.

The NFL's effort to schedule a workout for him is a noble gesture -- and a meaningful one. The NFL and Kaepernick (and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid) already had settled a lawsuit over collusion accusations, but the quarterback had not been given another shot in the league even as owners pledged $90 million for the types of social justice initiatives Kaepernick championed. He has not played since 2016 when he was 29 years old.

The timing and haste with which this all was decided and announced did Kaepernick no favors in many regards. He will never get back the years he was ignored, and one could certainly quibble with the suddenness of this arrangement, nearly three-quarters of the way through the season, at a time when college scouting requirements remain in full swing on a day of the week in which future NFL players are playing on college campuses nationwide.

No one associated with any NFL team had any inkling this announcement of a Kaepernick workout in Atlanta was upcoming, sources around the league told CBS Sports. Nor did anyone close to the quarterback. There had not been any recent momentum about this, there was not much back-and-forth, and, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, the overture from the league office about a tryout caught even the quarterback by surprise.

This was not a negotiation, the sources said. It was more like a take-it-or-leave-it offer. The league told the quarterback it would send out an invite to all 32 teams if Kaepernick was willing to take part. The workout would take place in Atlanta, on Saturday. And there wasn't much wiggle room on any of it.

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Sources said Kaepernick's advisers, realizing that wasn't much time for NFL teams to react and change scouting schedules and deal with logistics, preferred to do it later. Wouldn't a Tuesday, when teams normally would be working out veteran free agents, make more sense? Perhaps, but this was going to be Saturday and it was going to be Atlanta.

And, as for other elements of time, this wasn't going to something Team Kaepernick could mull for long. They had two hours to make a decision, sources said, and that was it. If he agreed this notice was going out to teams on Tuesday, and away we go.

Kaepernick has never stopped working out, and he has never stopped believing in his dream to return to the NFL, and he has always been willing to work out for any team at any time, as he told me himself a few years back as we sat for hours in the lobby of a hip New York hotel. So, of course, he was going to accept. You can't say no when the league is willing to go this far and reach out in a way I cannot recall it ever doing before for any player. There was never any thought to decline.

However, there was a request that the NFL provides a list of the individuals who would attend. There was a hope that this would be taken seriously by the teams and, sources said, it was conveyed to the league that the idea was for people involved in an actual decision to sign the player be present (all the while knowing that most general managers are already occupied with travel to their game or to scout a college game on Saturday, and knowing that it would be impossible for almost all quarterback coaches or coordinators or head coaches to be present, as they would if Kaepernick was working out for them privately on a Tuesday at their facility, for instance).

We'll see which team personnel commit as the week unfolds and how many teams actually do attend. The quick turnaround from announcement to workout gives them an easy out if they do not.  But however random it may have been, and however late in the season it may already be, and however many years have passed since the 49ers parted ways with the quarterback who led them to their only Super Bowl appearance in recent history, the overture has to be commended.

Will it be enough to convince an owner that it is truly okay to sign him? Will it be sufficient to show Kaepernick is worthy of the kind of opportunities routinely afforded to guys like Blake Bortles and Blaine Gabbert and Matt Schaub and Nathan Peterman? Soon enough, we should find out. This is progress. It is, finally, a chance.

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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