In what were his most expansive comments on the Seahawks’ interactions with Colin Kaepernick, coach Pete Carroll said Thursday he wishes in retrospect the team could have found a way to sign him in 2017 or 2018.
“I regret that that didn’t happen in some fashion,’’ Carroll said of not signing Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since 2016, a season in which he kneeled during the national anthem while playing for the 49ers. “I wish we would have contributed to it because he deserved to play. … I wish we could have figured that out knowing what we know now, and given him the chance because I would love to see him play for all those years.’’
But Carroll also said he did not think the Seahawks would sign Kaepernick now because the Seahawks like their quarterback situation, though he didn’t rule out that circumstances down the road could mean the team might be interested later.
Carroll also said the Seahawks never asked Kaepernick, 32, about whether he planned to continue kneeling for the anthem when it talked to him in 2018, despite reports at the time stating the team did.
And Carroll also said he received a call on Thursday from a representative of another team about Kaepernick, which he said shows that an NFL team is interested in signing Kaepernick, though Carroll said he would not specify which team.
All of Carroll’s comments came when he talked to reporters who cover the Seahawks via Zoom on Thursday in what was his first general meeting with the media since the NFL draft in April.
Since then, Seattle’s history with Kaepernick — the Seahawks are the only team known to have talked to him since 2016 — became a much-discussed topic after NFL players joined in protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
Kaepernick spearheaded NFL player protests by kneeling during the anthem in 2016 in protest of social injustice and police brutality. The NFL last week issued a statement saying it was wrong at the time to have not encouraged players to peacefully protest, which many perceived as essentially an apology to Kaepernick.
Carroll further ignited a review of Seattle’s history with Kaepernick when he talked about it on a podcast last week with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, saying “we owe a tremendous amount’’ to Kaepernick for taking a stand that Carroll said was courageous.
Here’s a further look at what Carroll said about Kaepernick Thursday:
Seahawks felt Kaepernick deserved to be a starter in 2017
Seattle brought in Kaepernick for a workout in May, 2017, at which time the Seahawks were looking for a veteran backup after Russell Wilson endured an injury-riddled 2016 season (Carroll also noted that Kaepernick had initially called him “out of the blue’’ to ask for advice on what to do with his career, which he implied helped lead to Seattle’s decision to bring in Kaepernick for a workout).
Seattle ultimately did not sign Kaepernick with Carroll saying at that time he felt Kaepernick deserved to be a starter in the NFL.
Carroll reiterated that on Thursday.
“I thought at the time and just in our situation as a backup, I didn’t feel it was right at that time,’’ Carroll said. “So I had to make that football decision. It was about our team, and in the situation, we had our starting quarterback and all of that and it wasn’t going to be the open competitive situation because Russell is such a dominant figure and all that.’’
Carroll said he assumed at the time that another team would sign Kaepernick.
“I figured he was starting somewhere for sure and it just didn’t happen,’’ Carroll said.
The Seahawks ended up signing Austin Davis to back up Wilson in 2017 a year they also had Trevone Boykin on the roster.
“He could have been a fantastic player in the program,” Carroll said. “Unfortunately it didn’t work out, and then when you look back, I felt like we missed the opportunity.”
Reports that Seattle asked Kaepernick about kneeling ‘a media-driven’ story
The Seahawks in 2018 again thought about signing Kaepernick in the wake of releasing Boykin following his arrest on a domestic violence charge.
Reports at the time stated that a planned workout was canceled when Kaepernick would not say if he would continue to kneel for the anthem. Other sources have indicated the Seahawks asked a broader question about Kaepernick’s overall plans, which would have included his plans for the anthem.
Carroll twice Thursday said the Seahawks did not ask specifically about kneeling and noted that the team at that point had already gone through the 2017 season when several Seahawks sat or kneeled during the anthem, including Michael Bennett and Duane Brown.
“We had enough confidence in ourselves and our ability to hold it together, guys could do what they needed to do,’’ Carroll said. “A couple guys stayed in the locker room, and there was a number of things that guys did. So that went out like that (kneeling) was the issue. That was never the issue. And so I’m gonna tell you straight up, like I told you every other word I’ve tried to say today to you straight-up as I can be, that was not the issue. And I know that that was a media-driven thing so I don’t know where that came from.’’
Carroll, though, did say the team asked Kaepernick “where his head was at the time’’ in regards to his football career in general, including if he was content to be a backup.
But Carroll said such questions trying to gauge a player’s mindset are common in meetings with veteran free agents.
“We ask everybody that,’’ Carroll said. “… where’s your head at right now, what are you thinking? That was not unique to Kaep’s situation at all.’’
Carroll likes Seattle’s ‘setup’ at quarterback but says another team is interested in signing Kaepernick
So could Seattle consider Kaepernick now?
Carroll said probably not, saying he likes the quarterback room the team has at the moment with Wilson backed up by veteran Geno Smith, who recently re-signed to return for a second season, and former WSU standout Aaron Gordon having signed as an undrafted free agent.
“I love the way Geno fits together in a role and all that, so it’s not really available at this time for us,” Carroll said. “But I’ve said this ongoing for years, if Russ ever got tangled up and couldn’t play or something that Kaep would have been an extraordinary candidate to take over.
“We’re kind of set-up right now, so football-wise it doesn’t seem to fit is. But you know, there’s a lot of time here, we’ll see what happens.”
That sounds like not completely closing the door if Kaepernick ever became available.
Carroll, though, seemed to say he thinks another team may sign Kaepernick first, saying he’d gotten a call Thursday from a team asking his thoughts on Kaepernick.
“After all of the time, the years that have passed, I never received a phone call about (Kaepernick), never talked to another head coach about it, never talked to anybody about it until today,’’ Carroll said. “. … So you know somebody’s interested, and so we’ll see what happens with that.’’