While the discussion continues, expect experts and pundits to continue to weigh in with their takes. One of the latest to share his thoughts is former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich.
While appearing on ESPN, Ninkovich was asked if he thought Kaepernick would be a distraction in the Patriots’ locker room. He had this to say:
Every single day, you come in, you work on your craft and you try to be better individually as a player and try to come together as a team. I think Bill Belichick is if not the best, one of the best to ever bring a team together no matter who’s on the roster, no matter what [he has] at his disposal. He’s able to bring guys together from all over different parts. So I think that Kaepernick in a Patriots locker room would not be a distraction.
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While Ninkovich is probably right, the team that brings Kaepernick would need a strong coach, the overall maintain-the-circus concept might be a little overblown. Most players in the NFL seem to have a genuine love for Kaepernick, so it’s hard to imagine how his presence could be a negative overall.
Dealing with the media and the portion of the Patriots fanbase that seem to despise him might be another story. However, that is a scenario that almost any open-minded veteran head coach should be able to handle.
That said, there are better football fits for Kaepernick in the NFL. A stronger case could be made for Kaepernick with the Chicago Bears as a competitor for the starting job with Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles, as a backup with the Washington Redskins, Los Angeles Chargers, and competition with Gardner Menshaw with the Jacksonville Jaguars. If we’re talking about attention, the Jags could use Kaepernick because the team has notoriously struggled to sell tickets.
Still, the Patriots keep coming into the conversation because they have arguably the least-proven starting quarterback in Jarrett Stidham, one of the least threatening backups in Brian Hoyer, and two undrafted free-agent rookies in J’Mar Smith and Brian Lewerke. On paper, the Patriots look like a team in need of a veteran starter. That’s partly why Cam Newton’s name keeps coming up in connection with New England as well.
Furthermore, there is just something statement-making about the prospects of the Patriots, a team whose identity has come off as the epitome of Americana, and whose owner Robert Kraft, is a Donald Trump supporter being the one to sign Kaepernick. It might just be the symbol of change the NFL is trying to convince the country it is embracing.
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