Andrew Luck

Why Colin Kaepernick isn't playing in new XFL, according to Oliver Luck

kaepxflap.jpg
AP

Why Colin Kaepernick isn't playing in new XFL, according to Oliver Luck

The game looks familiar, even if the players aren't.

The 49ers' loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV marked the conclusion of the NFL season, but not football altogether. Within the week, the XFL returned from a two-decade absence, as Saturday marked the beginning of the league's reincarnation.

The XFL of 2020 is not what it was back in 2001. Player nicknames no longer appear on jersey nameplates, and there is more of a focus on the actual game itself. Still, there are many unique elements that serve to differentiate the XFL from the NFL, and from a financial perspective, the league believes it's now much more viable than it was back in 2001, when it folded after just a single season. XFL commissioner Oliver -- and father of former Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew -- Luck offered three explanations as to why he feels that way when speaking with NPR's Michel Martin on Saturday, including better funding, exposure and players.

The XFL approached former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick about joining and starring in the new league, but according to Luck, Kaepernick's salary demands ruled out that possibility.

"We gave it some thought," Luck told Martin. "We have some pretty significant salary restrictions, you know. We're a start-up league, so we want to make sure that we can be fiscally responsible and fiscally prudent. And the, you know, salary requirements that some folks, you know, shared with us were in our case exorbitant, so we, you know, couldn't go down that path."

"We spoke with his representative," Luck continued, "and the salary requirements that were broached in that conversation were exorbitant and certainly out of our range."

When asked if the XFL would reconsider its stance on Kaepernick if he lowered his salary demands, Luck was noncommittal.

"I don't know," Luck said. "That was well over a year ago, so I don't know what kind of shape, you know, Colin is in. And, you know, we haven't followed that because obviously, again, we want the best players who are interested in playing in our league. That's, you know, pretty much a requisite for our job."

[RELATED: How Kap, coach moves defined 49ers' up-and-down decade]

While no one could blame the XFL for trying to be fiscally responsible, Luck's last comment seemed unrelated to any financial hurdles associated with bringing Kaepernick into the fold. The XFL requires all of its players to stand for the national anthem, and Luck sure doesn't sound like he supports Kaepernick's chosen methods of protest in the past.

"Players have numerous opportunities to express themselves with all the platforms that exist today," Luck said. "So, you know, standing for the national anthem we believe is a part of their responsibility as players in our league. But we think it's important to have that -- you know, that requirement for our players."

When pressed as to why Luck feels it's important to have that requirement, he doubled down on generalizations.

"We think it's important. We think it's part of what we as a league should do."

If the XFL can't afford Kaepernick, then his absence from the league is simply the result of financial prudence. But if Kaepernick's social reputation is figuring into it and causing the XFL to avoid such a partnership, it sure seems like a gigantic missed opportunity. If anything, one would think the XFL should be leaning into all of the different ways it could distinguish itself from its much larger, much more established competitor.

Derek Carr, Jon Gruden impressed by how Colts handled Andrew Luck loss

luckbrissettusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Derek Carr, Jon Gruden impressed by how Colts handled Andrew Luck loss

ALAMEDA -- Andrew Luck's retirement caught everyone off guard. 

Two weeks before the start of the season, Jacoby Brissett went from talented backup to franchise quarterback, and got paid as such. The Colts haven't been derailed by Luck's departure, though, as Brissett has led them to a 2-1 start through three weeks ahead of Sunday's Week 4 matchup with the Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been impressed with how Brissett has stepped up after Luck's abrupt exit, knowing how hard it is to go from presumed backup to starter on short notice. 

"It reminds me so much of -- now he didn't retire -- but of my rookie year," Carr said Wednesday. "Like, going into Week 1, I still was like, 'OK, I'll play someday.' I played in the preseason because I thought we were just resting [Matt Schaub] and his elbow, and then all of a sudden I come in and they're like, 'Hey, you're starting.' Oh, sweet. Rex Ryan, New York Jets. That'll be awesome, you know? The first start, when the whole time it's been, "OK, I'll play someday in the future.'

"You can't hide the excitement as a competitor," Carr continued turning back to Brissett. "So I'm sure he was excited, but you feel for your teammate. I'm sure he feels for Andrew. Like, Andrew didn't want to retire, right? His body had enough. Trust me, there are a lot of guys in the locker room who as soon as they retire, they're like, 'Man, I understand.'

"Going through all those injuries, that's not fun. Especially internal injuries. That's different. You feel for them, but at the same time you're excited, and again, football is a team sport. So I'm sure his teammates just put their arms around him and said, 'OK, let's roll.'"

Brissett started 15 games for the Colts in 2017 when Luck missed the entire season and had been preparing with the first-team offense all of camp as Luck tried to fight his way back to full health. So, he wasn't entirely caught off guard by being handed the keys to the offense. Still, Indianapolis' resiliency has been impressive. 

The Colts were able to absorb the body blow of losing Luck, which is a credit to head coach Frank Reich, Brissett and the leadership core Indy has. Having a backup quarterback with starter talent, of course, didn't hurt. 

"They did a good job getting Brissett," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. "Not a lot of teams have a superstar quarterback retire who can turn the ball over to a guy like this. You know, Brissett is a winner. He's a heck of a player. He's getting paid well, too. He's not your average Dayton Flyer like me. I mean this guy is a hell of a player.

"So I don't want to underestimate him at all. He has done an excellent job."

[RELATED: Luck's decision to leave NFL one to be appreciated

The Raiders sit at 1-2 after the Week 3 drubbing they suffered at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings. Now, they'll travel to Indianapolis to face a Colts team that has rallied around Brissett and believes they still are the best team in the AFC South even without Luck. 

A loss Sunday could send the Raiders' season down the drain early, so they'll have to fluster Brissett and the Colts to try to steal one on the road. 

Flustering this Colts team? Easier said than done. 

Frank Reich explains how Colts survived Andrew Luck's retirement

Frank Reich explains how Colts survived Andrew Luck's retirement

Two weeks before the start of the season, coach Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts were hit with a body blow as star quarterback Andrew Luck walked away from football after suffering countless injuries and losing his love for the game. 

Losing your best player to retirement that close to the season would have broken a lot of teams, but Reich's group responded with impressive mental toughness and has gotten off to a 2-1 start ahead of Sunday's Week 4 matchup with the Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

After losing their opener to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Colts scored a late touchdown in Week 2 to sink the Titans and beat up the Falcons in Week 3. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been solid in place of Luck, throwing for 646 yards and seven touchdowns through the first three games. 

Ahead of Sunday's game against the Raiders, Reich praised his team's character and leadership when discussing how the team withstood the loss of Luck. 

“Well, I guess to play off your term ‘body blow’, I would say you have to have a strong core and that’s what we have in our locker room," Reich told the media Wednesday on a conference call. "We have a strong core of guys. We’re high character guys who believe in each other, strong leadership that can take something like that and not flinch.”

With a huge matchup against the Chiefs looming in Week 5, the Raiders might be catching the Colts in a look-ahead spot, but Reich's club has shown they have the mental fortitude to block out the distractions. 

Indy also could be without some very valuable pieces. 

Star wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is day-to-day with a quad injury, and if he is unable to go that could severely limit the Colts' offensive potential in the pass game. Through three games this season, Hilton has 20 receptions for 195 yards and four touchdowns. All other Colts have combined for46 catches for 451 yards and three touchdowns. 

The Colts also will be without star safety Malik Hooker (knee), and could be without linebacker Darius Leonard which should, in theory, zap the defense of some of their play-making ability, opening the door for Derek Carr and the Raiders' offense to get going early in Indy. 

That means a lot will fall on Marlon Mack's shoulders. The Colts running back has flexed his muscles early on this season, and after the Raiders were gashed by Vikings star Dalvin Cook in Week 3. Logic would dictate Reich and the Colts will try to pound the Raiders on the ground. 

Reich, however, believes the Raiders are a much better team than what they showed in Minnesota. 

“Yeah, they are very tough to run on," Reich said. "Like you said, the first two games, very stout on defense. Very stout up front and then Dalvin Cook has been, I think, having that kind of day on everybody so far. We expect it to be a good challenge. It’s really good on good. Yes, we think we have a good offensive line and a good running game, but we think they’re a very formidable run defense and it’ll be a good match.”

[RELATED: Luck's decision to retire one that should be praised]

With three stars potentially out and a big game next week, the Colts will have to use the "strong core" that helped them stomach Luck's departure in order to fight off a desperate Raiders team come Sunday. 

The Colts have shown they are a resilient bunch. After starting 1-2, the Raiders will need to show their own brand of resiliency or risk the season spiraling out of control.