OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After confirming Joe Flacco would receive a week of rest for his ailing back to begin training camp, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh brought up the name on many minds before he could even be asked the question.
Citing a good relationship that began when his brother, Jim, was still the head coach in San Francisco, Harbaugh acknowledged the possibility of the Ravens adding ex-49er Colin Kaepernick. The polarizing quarterback remains unsigned with many believing that the NFL has blackballed him for choosing not to stand during the national anthem as a form of protest during the 2016 season.
Kaepernick has said that he was making a statement about the oppression of non-white races and social inequality in the United States, but an ESPN report in March indicated that the 29-year-old plans to once again stand for the anthem this season after believing his message had been heard.
“He and I have been talking throughout the summer a number of times,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve had some great conversations on the phone. It’s really been a pleasure to talk to him and get to know him. I like history and politics and stuff, too, so we’ve had some debates. It’s been fun, and he’s a great guy. He’s a guy right now that’s being talked about, and we’ll just see what happens with that. I think that would all be speculation right now, but I think he’s a really good football player. As I said at the owners’ meetings, I do believe he’ll be playing in the National Football League this year.”
The Ravens currently have just two healthy quarterbacks on their 90-man roster as projected backup Ryan Mallett handled the starting reps and the little-known Dustin Vaughan struggled mightily during Thursday’s practice. With the shortage of signal-callers on the field, offensive assistant Matt Weiss was even handling some snaps during a few drills.
Harbaugh confirmed that the Ravens would definitely be adding another training camp “arm” to handle reps, but he emphasized that Kaepernick would be more than that, labeling him an “accomplished” player. Despite beginning the 2016 season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert, the Super Bowl XLVII quarterback threw for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 90.7 passer rating in 12 games. Kaepernick visited with Seattle in late May, but no other teams with serious interest have been reported since he became a free agent in March.
Safety Eric Weddle, who rapidly became one of the team leaders upon arriving in Baltimore last year, took a pragmatic stance on the possibility of Kaepernick — or any other outsider — becoming a Raven.
“I don’t really care who they bring in, what they do,” Weddle said. “If it helps our team, bring them all in. That’s upstairs. That’s for the coaching staff and Ozzie [Newsome] and Eric [DeCosta] and [Steve] Bisciotti to figure out who they want to bring in. Whether he’s the right guy, I don’t really know, I don’t really care. We’re just trying to be the best team.”
The Ravens’ true level of interest likely depends on the health of Flacco, who only reported his back discomfort to the team Wednesday when he arrived at the training facility. Mallett was re-signed to a one-year, $2 million contract at the start of free agency, which leads one to believe that the organization is comfortable with him as the backup quarterback.
While much of the outside world salivates over the possibility of Kaepernick landing in Baltimore, Harbaugh is keeping his fingers crossed that Flacco will be back on the field sooner than later.
“It flared up a little bit, and he went and saw the back specialist,” said Harbaugh, who dismissed any concern that Flacco wouldn’t be ready for the start of the regular season. “They’re recommending about a week of rest. They say that should take care of it. I guess with a back, you can always say, ‘We’ll see.’ All indications from the back specialist, Dr. [John] Carbone, are that he should be fine in about a week, and that’s what we’ll be hoping for and praying for.”