BALTIMORE — Owner Steve Bisciotti says the Ravens are still weighing the possibility of signing Colin Kaepernick, but he isn’t sure whether the polarizing quarterback would help his team win games.
Speaking to fans at a special forum that included NFL commissioner Roger Goodell prior to Sunday’s practice at M&T Bank Stadium, Bisciotti said he is still discussing the matter with team president Dick Cass, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and head coach John Harbaugh while also surveying current and former players for their opinions. As Harbaugh indicated Friday, the status of starting quarterback Joe Flacco, who is currently sidelined with a bad back, remains the biggest variable in the decision-making process from a football standpoint.
Cass confirmed during the forum that the Ravens have had direct discussions with Kaepernick, who has expressed his desire to continue his football career.
“We do want to win games, and I’m not sure right now that he is going to help us do that,” Bisciotti said. “We’re monitoring Joe. We’ve talked to Joe about it. We’re monitoring [Ryan] Mallett. We’re keeping our door open. We’ve talked about [Robert Griffin III], bringing him in for a workout.”
Bisciotti admitted he wasn’t a fan of seeing Kaepernick sit during the national anthem last preseason, but he gained more respect for the former San Francisco 49er’s protest when he began kneeling for “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the 2016 preseason finale and continued that practice in the regular season.
The Ravens have said they’ve received plenty of fan feedback over the last few days and have carefully considered how Kaepernick’s signing would impact their brand.
“Colin’s made some assurances — I think through his intermediaries — that there would be no protesting, that he would be standing for the [national anthem],” Bisciotti said. “To quantify hurting the brand, I know that we’re going to upset some people and I know that we’re going to make people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did.
“Nonviolent protesting is something that we’ve all embraced.”
The Ravens had $6.956 million in salary cap space entering Sunday, but they then signed former New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell to a spot on their 90-man roster. Mallett, the current backup, was re-signed to a one-year, $2 million with a $1 million signing bonus in March.
Below is Bisciotti’s complete answer to a fan’s question about the potential impact a Kaepernick signing would have on the Ravens’ brand:
We are very sensitive to it. It’s been discussed between Dick and Ozzie and John, and we’ve talked to a lot of our current players and a lot of our former players. I was speaking to Ray Lewis this morning. I know Ozzie had a long conversation with Ben Watson. I wouldn’t divulge people’s opinions, but I think you’d be kind of shocked at some people that are against it and some people that are for it. It’s not racial lines. It’s not existing players versus former players. I care about the fan base, but I have to absorb the opinions of the players that have been there.
Colin’s made some assurances I think through his intermediaries that there would be no protesting, that he would be standing for the [national anthem]. To quantify hurting the brand, I know that we’re going to upset some people and I know that we’re going to make people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did. Nonviolent protesting is something that we’ve all embraced. I don’t like the way he did it. Personally, I kind of liked it a lot when he went from sitting to kneeling. I don’t know. I’m Catholic [and] we spend a lot of time kneeling. When I saw him develop last year and went from sitting to kneeling next to his teammates, I liked that. I just thought, ‘OK, if it’s still a silent protest, I don’t think that the level of disrespect is as strong that way.’
We do want to win games, and I’m not sure right now that he is going to help us do that. We’re monitoring Joe. We’ve talked to Joe about it. We’re monitoring Mallett. We’re keeping our door open. We’ve talked about [Robert Griffin III], bringing him in for a workout.
All I would ask is to just talk to your neighbors and your friends and your co-workers, too, because I think you’ll just get the same sense that I got. Wow, every time I hear something negative, I hear something positive and sometimes it shocks me who it’s coming from. I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what’s best for our fans. Your opinions matter to us, and you couldn’t get a consensus in here, either. Every time there’s a sensitive subject, we know.
When I fired [Brian] Billick nine years ago, it sounded like 90 percent of the people in Baltimore wanted me to fire him until I fired him and then I found out 80 percent thought I was an idiot. You’ve got to be careful about the vocal minority. They have the tendency to seem to be a bigger group than they are.
We’re very sensitive to it, and we’re monitoring it. We’re still, as Ozzie says, scrimmaging it, and we’re trying to figure out what’s the right tact. So, pray for us.