49ers

Pete Carroll lauds Colin Kaepernick protest, which Seahawks nixed visit for

Pete Carroll lauds Colin Kaepernick protest, which Seahawks nixed visit for

Pete Carroll praised former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 2016 protest of police brutality against African Americans and institutional racism earlier this week, nearly three years after Carroll's Seattle Seahawks opted not to sign Kaepernick as a free agent and over two after they reportedly postponed a workout because Kaepernick wouldn't commit to no longer kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.

"I think that there was a moment in time that a young man captured," Carroll told Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday on The Ringer's "Flying Coach" podcast (via ESPN's Nick Friedell). "He took a stand on something, figuratively took a knee, but he stood up for something he believed in -- and what an extraordinary moment it was that he was willing to take. ... But what happened from the process is it elevated awareness from people that just took everything away from what the statement was all about, and it just got tugged and pulled and ripped apart.

"And the whole mission of what the statement was, such a beautiful ... it's still the statement that we're making right today. We're not protecting our people. We're not looking after one another. We're not making the right choices. We're not following the right process to bring people to justice when actions are taken. So I think it was a big sacrifice in the sense that a young man makes, but those are the courageous moments that some guys take. And we owe a tremendous amount to him for sure."

Kaepernick was a free agent in 2017 following a season in which he kneeled during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games as part of his protest. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers after the team's new regime, led by general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, told Kaepernick he would be released if he didn't. Kaepernick visited the Seahawks in May, but Seattle opted not to sign him.

“He’s a starter in this league,” Carroll said on June 2 (H/T Andre Vergara). “We have a starter (Russell Wilson), but he is a starter in this league and I can’t imagine somebody won’t give him a chance to play.”

Neither the Seahawks, nor any other team, did that season or in the two that followed. Kaepernick was set to visit with the Seahawks in April 2018, but Seattle didn't bring the QB in for a workout after he didn't reveal whether he would continue to kneel during the national anthem, according to multiple reports that Carroll later said were "blown up." The 32-year-old quarterback sued the NFL for collusion later that year as he remained unsigned, settling it last February.

Carroll said the Seahawks planned to attend Kaepernick's NFL-arranged workout at the Atlanta Falcons' last November, but they were unable to send a scout after Kaepernick moved the location to a high school outside of Atlanta when the NFL barred media access and asked him to sign a waiver Kaepernick's lawyers deemed unusual.

“I’m disappointed. We had planned to be at that workout,” Carroll said on Nov. 19 (H/T Tacoma News Tribune's Gregg Bell). “It got changed around and we couldn’t work with it. Unfortunately, we sent somebody but couldn’t stay with the changes that happened. We missed it."

Kaepernick's protest has received renewed attention following the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis police custody last Monday. Fired police officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe, and now faces charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene face charges of aiding and abetting murder.

Floyd's death, occurring within months of two white men shooting and killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery during a jog in his Georgia neighborhood and Louisville police's fatal shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her home, set off worldwide protests and demonstrations of the same issues Kaepernick highlighted nearly four years ago.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media on Aug. 29, 2016 after sitting during the national anthem before a preseason game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick, after consulting with Green Beret and former Seahawk Nate Boyer, would ultimately kneel during the anthem.

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Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson told reporters Wednesday on a video conference that it was a question for Carroll if the Seahawks missed an opportunity to advance Kaepernick's message by signing him, but said Kaepernick "could definitely be on our roster for sure."

Carroll, meanwhile, said Tuesday on "Flying Coach" that he thinks he can do more to advance causes of racial equality after seeing protests unfold around the world in the last week.

"We have to go beyond and act and take the action, and it's going to be a challenge for people," Carroll said. "I feel frustrated I'm not doing enough. I'm not on it enough. I can't get active enough to create the change. I think we need to make progress, not just change."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

How George Kittle leading NFL in odd stat shows he could be even better

How George Kittle leading NFL in odd stat shows he could be even better

George Kittle was named First-Team All-Pro for the first time last season. He had the highest-graded season by a tight end in the Pro Football Focus era, and was the best overall player in the NFL last season by PFF's rankings. 

And he could have been even better with some help from the yellow flag. Kittle hauled in 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns last season despite missing two games. With a little more luck, those numbers would have been even more impressive. 

PFF's Ian Hartitz found that Kittle had three touchdowns nullified by penalties last year, leading all players in the strange stat.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

"Arguably the best tight end in the entire NFL could've had an even bigger season with a little better acting and/or performance from his teammates," Hartitz wrote.

It gets better (worse?), too. By Hartitz's count, the 49ers lead all teams with seven touchdowns called back by penalty in 2019.

[RELATED: 49ers' Taylor looks good, making explosive cuts in workout]

Through the video of Kittle's called-back TDs, it appears he should have had at least another 40 yards receiving on the penalty-ridden touchdowns alone. The 49ers' star tight end already had an elite season. This would have put him over the top. 

If the 49ers can clean up their penalties and Kittle remains healthy, expect another huge season from the fourth-year pro.

49ers' Trent Taylor looks healthy, making explosive cuts in workout video

49ers' Trent Taylor looks healthy, making explosive cuts in workout video

The 49ers already have dealt with two unfortunate injuries to their receiving corps this offseason with Deebo Samuel's broken foot and Richie James' fractured wrist. There could be a silver lining to this summer's injury bug, though. 

Trent Taylor looks strong and healthy on his surgically repaired right foot. This could be huge for Kyle Shanahan's offense and the development of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Taylor sustained a Jones fracture -- the same injury as Samuel -- in training camp last year and never fully recovered. He wound up having to undergo five surgeries and missed the entire 2019 season. But in a recent workout video with teammate George Kittle, Taylor looks to be back to the player that quickly became a favorite target of Garoppolo's in 2017. 

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

The 5-foot-8 slot receiver was the perfect comfort blanket for Garoppolo after he took over the starting QB job late in 2017. Garoppolo completed 17 of his 20 pass attempts to Taylor for 191 yards in 2017, and had a 102.3 QB rating when targeting the slippery receiver over the final five games of the season. 

Taylor's stats took a tumble in 2018 with Garoppolo sidelined. Fellow receiver Kendrick Bourne believes that's about to change this season. 

Before Taylor went down in camp last season, 49ers coaches had high hopes for him. Really high.

"Several S.F. coaches believed he was headed for a Pro Bowl campaign at this time a year ago, and having former Patriots and Broncos star Wes Welker as his position coach and role model doesn't hurt," NFL Media's Mike Silver said back in May.

[RELATED: 49ers haven't forgotten about McKinnon; neither should you]

Even if Taylor isn't a star or Pro Bowl receiver, he's proved his value by developing chemistry with Garoppolo when healthy. Every quarterback has their guy where they can feel their energy on the field. It's an invisible, invaluable bond. 

Taylor could be that guy for Garoppolo, only making this offense that much more explosive.