More than three years since he last took an NFL snap, Colin Kaepernick could be on the verge of a return to the league in what would be one of the most anticipated and scrutinized comebacks in sports history.
And yet, only several months ago it appeared highly questionable or even doubtful.
The killing of George Floyd by a former police officer, combined with a public health crisis and soaring unemployment, have sparked massive social unrest in the US and beyond.
Facing tremendous popular pressure and unable any longer to dodge, equivocate or play "both sides," powerful institutions like the NFL have pledged to not only stop thwarting social justice but to actively support it.
Commissioner Roger Goodell's apology to the NFL's black community and fans, as well as his declaration that "Black Lives Matter," didn't address Kaepernick's situation directly, but it wasn't difficult to read between the lines.
Whether it proves to be the unofficial ending of Kaepernick's blackballing from the league remains to be seen, but it did fan the flames of speculation about his potential return, which had never fully subsided anyway.
Here's a look at rumors and speculation about the possible return of No. 7.
Teams at November 2019 workout
New York Jets
San Francisco 49ers
Kansas City Chiefs
In November, no one could have predicted how the world has changed. Back then, Kaepernick and the league appeared to be out of sync about how to best execute a private workout for interested NFL teams, prompting some to claim the league set up the event as a cynical PR stunt to shield itself from claims of blackballing.
An interesting list of seven teams attended, even though nothing came of it. The Eagles certainly stand out, but they are likely out of the mix after drafting Jalen Hurts to back up Carson Wentz, and Redskins owner Dan "we will NEVER change the team name" Snyder presumably isn't interested in employing one of the faces of social justice.
To my mind it would be a great story for Kaepernick to return to the Niners now that Jim Harbaugh is long gone, and they could certainly use a capable backup behind Jimmy Garoppolo. But it would seem he would have slim chance of playing in that scenario, unless Jimmy G were to get injured.
The Chiefs and Titans could be great fits on paper, two playoff teams short on depth at QB behind starters Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Tannehill. Tennessee in particular could be an ideal fit, NFL sources reportedly told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. The Lions and Jets could also use depth behind starters Matthew Stafford and Sam Darnold, though both teams are coming off losing seasons. Plus, Jets owner Woody Johnson is now President Trump's Ambassador to the UK, so that could be a complication.
Los Angeles Chargers
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll recently admitted that he regrets not signing Kaepernick after inviting him for a visit in 2017, the only known such case of a team expressing interest in the QB since his tenure in San Francisco ended. Does Carroll regret it enough to bring Kap on board? Geno Smith is currently Russell Wilson's backup.
No less than a former White House press secretary called on the Vikings to sign Kaepernick. In an opinion piece published by CNN, former NFL comms executive Joe Lockhart called on owner Zygi Wilf to give Kaepernick a chance in the city where Floyd's life was brutally extinguished, far too soon. Setting aside the issue of symbolism, maybe this one has legs -- backup Sean Mannion has thrown all of 74 passes in his five-year career.
Former NFL player turned CBS Sports analyst Bryant McFadden suggested Kaepernick could get a chance to play early on a "quarterback-needy" team such as the Jags. In a league already seeing a dearth of QBs, Kaep would be in the mix to play right away if he wanted to, McFadden said.
The Chargers have two quarterbacks in rookie Justin Herbert and Tyrod Taylor. The journeyman appears to have a leg up on the starting job, but Fowler said his sources identified Los Angeles as a sensible landing spot for Kaepernick. However, the Chargers have a third QB on the roster of whom they speak highly, in 2019 fifth-rounder Easton Stick, according to Jason B. Hirschhorn of SI.com.
The Ravens are the "only" team that make sense for Kaepernick, according to WFAN host and former NFL MVP Boomer Esiason. The city of Baltimore is uniquely prepared for such a moment, and the Ravens are one of the few organizations that could handle it, Boomer explained.
New England Patriots
Matt Ryan recently said Kaepernick "should have every opportunity" to get back into the NFL. How about as Ryan's backup? Matt Schaub isn't getting any younger. .. The Bears will hold a competition in camp between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky for the starting job. Why not add a third contender? .. Bill Belichick is hard to read, and according to Mike Reiss of ESPN, there's only a "very low percentage" chance that Kaepernick ends up in New England. Recall that Belichick is pals with Trump, and he didn't appear to have much interest in Cam Newton, whose presence in free agency could complicate the market for Kaepernick, according to McFadden. .. The Texans' backup is veteran AJ McCarron, who has all of 173 pass attempts in his five-year career.