It's been nearly four years since we last saw Colin Kaepernick play in an NFL game. January 1, 2017 was that day, as Kaepernick and the 49ers lost 25-23 at Levi's Stadium to the Los Angeles Rams.
Kaepernick's protest and public spat with the NFL went all the way to court, and the quarterback seemingly has been blackballed from the league as a result.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in a conversation with former NFL player and Fox Sports 1 analyst Emmanuel Acho, finally admitted Sunday that he wishes the NFL "had listened earlier" to what Kaepernick was championing with his decision to kneel during the national anthem.
“I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” Goodell told Acho on "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man."
"We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue, I wish we had the benefit of that, we never did. We would have benefited from that, absolutely."
During ESPN's "The Return to Sports" show in June, Goodell told Mike Greenberg he was pushing for an NFL team to sign Kaepernick.
"Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it's gonna take a team to make that decision," Goodell said during ESPN's "The Return to Sports" show. "But I welcome that, support a club making that decision, and encourage them to do that."
Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Kaepernick is “probably on the workout list” this summer, but no tryout date was set before training camps began in late July.
“I’m very confident with the three quarterbacks that I have,” Lynn said. “But you can never have too many people waiting on the runway.
“I do like Kaep,” Lynn continued. “He fits what we’re doing. So he definitely would be someone that, if something would happen, maybe we bring him in. I don’t know.”
The publicly expressed remorse from Goodell is a step in the right direction, but actions speak much louder than words. Until Kaepernick can make a return to the NFL and get another chance to play, Goodell's dialogue will continue to fall on deaf ears.
Now 32 years old, Kaepernick likely isn't in quite the same peak shape he was when he helped lead the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. But at the very least, he could be a much more serviceable backup QB option than what some NFL teams currently have in their locker rooms.
It remains to be seen whether he ultimately can come to an agreement to return to the NFL. But even if he never suits up for another game, his legacy and impact on the country won't soon be forgotten.