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Goodell subtly shifts his Kaepernick talking points

Tony Dungy reflects on his Hall of Fame induction in 2016, his tribute to the late Dennis Green and which player deserves a spot in Canton.

The overriding message hasn’t changed; Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t believe quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed. However, Goodell has altered his explanation as to which no team has signed Kaepernick.

“Teams make decisions [based] on what’s in the best interest of their team . . . and they make those decisions individually,” Goodell said at a fan forum in Denver, via the Associated Press.

The focus on the “best interest” of the team reflects a broader analysis than the one Goodell previously said teams engage in, on three prior occasions.

From March: “My experience in 35 years is that our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. But if they think a player can help improve their team, they’re going to do that.”

From May: “It’s the same thing I said before, which is each team makes individual decisions about how they can improve their team. And if they see an opportunity to improve their team I think they do it. They evaluate players, they evaluate systems and coaches, and they all make those individual decisions to try to improve their team.”

From June: “[A]ll [teams] want to get better. And if they see an opportunity to get better as a football team, they’re going to do it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to make their football team better. So those are football decisions. They’re made all the time. I believe that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to do it.”

Now, it’s no longer about “improving the team.” It’s about “the best interest of the team.” And for good reason; Goodell was present in Baltimore as owner Steve Bisciotti confirmed that it’s not just about what will “improve the team.” It’s about how fans and sponsors will react.

That said, I agree with Goodell’s belief that Kaepernick isn’t being blackballed. This implies coordination or collusion among the league office and the various teams. In this case, the organizations independently have decided it’s not in their best interests to sign Kaepernick.

If he was the kind of quarterback that Ron Jaworski once suggested Kaepernick would be, someone would have signed him by now. But his skills, which aren’t nearly bad enough to justify the “all about football” nonsense that some have been pushing for months, aren’t good enough to persuade a team to take on a player whose behavior shouldn’t cause him to be branded like a criminal, even if it somehow has.