Commissioner Roger Goodell spent months building a caucus and lobbying owners in preparation for a possible workout for Colin Kaepernick, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation, with initial discussions of the quarterback dating back to before the start of the season.
While Goodell did discuss his concerns with the lack of opportunities for Kaepernick with rapper Jay-Z three months ago, when the mogul began a business relationship with the league, sources said the initiative to construct a large-scale workout for Kaepernick came from the commissioner himself. The NFL announced its partnership with Jay-Z in mid-August, and began working closely with him within two weeks afterward, generally meeting two to three times a week to hash out ideas for how to address issues of inequality and oppression in the community.
The idea to somehow address Kaepernick's situation -- the former Super Bowl MVP reached a settlement with the league after being denied a single workout since kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality -- was broached early on, prompting hours of private conversations between Goodell and numerous owners. Sources said Goodell spent considerable time discussing ways to create an avenue for Kaepernick's return with Robert Kraft, Stephen Ross, Arthur Blank, Jed York and Jeffrey Lurie, among other owners, reporting back every few weeks to Jay-Z's team on the feedback he was receiving.
"Roger started making calls and hosting meetings about this right away," said one source who was involved in the process. "He really did a lot of this own his own, keeping everything very quiet. He probably spoke to 10 owners, at least ... He really wanted to do the right there here, and I understand if some people will say that something should have happened sooner and it took too long, but you have to allow that there can be a course correction and Roger really did invest himself in this process."
The idea of a pro day or combine of sorts gained some traction as Goodell ran it by the owners, the sources said. Goodell was adamant that he believed at least two teams would seriously consider signing Kaepernick if he showed well at the workout, but the source said multiple teams expressed a desire to "need some cover" for the evaluation, rather than hosting it at their own facility.
Once Kaepernick's representatives issued a press release in October, with NFL quarterbacks suffering injuries at a staggering rate and Kaepernick still receiving no interest, Goodell "went into overdrive," as the source put it, working to firm up a date and location for the workout, which ultimately was scheduled for two weeks ago at the Falcons facility. Multiple sources said Goodell did not give the league's football operations department the go-ahead to contact the quarterback until he was certain that at least 20 teams or so would be attending.
"No matter what you think of the end result, this was thoughtfully done through various back channels over a long period of time, and I believe it came from the heart," said another source with direct knowledge of the planning of the workout.
Ultimately, the workout at the Falcons facility did not take place, as there were disagreements between Kaepernick and the league over access to the workout, transparency about the videography of the event and legal differences over the waiver the NFL wanted the quarterback to sign. The lack of trust between the sides and deep fissures that have formed were always going to make executing this sort of workout difficult, and the league office, frankly, is not experienced or adept at putting something like this together.
Kaepernick has yet to receive any feelers since staging his own workout, sources said, which was attended by eight teams, and the odds of him ever playing again in the NFL are as remote as ever, based on conversations with numerous teams about his situation.