The Baltimore Ravens would have been better off either signing Colin Kaepernick right away, or never even publicly mentioning the possibility.
Now they’re in the middle of the story, much like the Seattle Seahawks were earlier this summer. If they indeed floated a trial balloon to gauge fan reaction to signing Kaepernick, they probably regret it now. On Wednesday the team took the unusual step of publicly denying that owner Steve Bisciotti had blocked general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh from signing Kaepernick. ESPN’s Dianna Russini of ESPN reported that Newsome and Harbaugh support signing Kaepernick but have “met resistance” from Bisciotti, who asked fans what they thought about the move and asked for prayers as they consider it.
That led to this statement on Wednesday:
Statement on today’s report regarding Colin Kaepernick: pic.twitter.com/ubfpwVA35O
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 2, 2017
The Ravens have put themselves in a bad spot. They are now the team most closely associated with Kaepernick and the story of why he hasn’t been signed … and he has never played a down for the Ravens. If the Ravens sign him, they’ll deal with some criticism (but also plenty of support) and invite a ton of attention they probably don’t want during training camp. If they don’t sign him, it will look like Bisciotti – who already said he didn’t like Kaepernick’s national-anthem protest – kept the team from signing him. People have argued all offseason about whether NFL teams are blackballing Kaepernick, and now the Ravens will be the face of that debate if they don’t sign him. It’s quite a mess they’ve created.
The Ravens might not sign Kaepernick if Joe Flacco’s back is healthy, and recent reports say he’s doing better. Ryan Mallett is not a good backup and he’s unreliable, but teams generally don’t like bringing in a brand-new quarterback who doesn’t know the offense in August. If the Ravens thought about Kaepernick as a possibility in case Flacco was out for a while, and Flacco isn’t out for an extended period, it makes sense why they’d pass. That type of thing happens all the time in the NFL, and it normally comes and goes without anyone ever hearing about it or making a fuss. But this isn’t a normal story about an obscure free-agent quarterback.
So instead of keeping this quiet from the start, or just signing Kaepernick without doing something really dumb like crowdsourcing the decision, the Ravens find themselves having to answer questions about one of the biggest NFL stories of the year, and the player in question might never play for them. No matter what happens from here, the Ravens will be a prominent part of the Kaepernick story, perhaps as the face of what people believe to be a concerted effort to keep him out of the league. Well done.
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