Columns & Blogs

Colin Kaepernick to Carolina Panthers? Could make sense.

His attorney has suggested the Carolina Panthers might be a possibility for quarterback Colin Kaepernick (above).
His attorney has suggested the Carolina Panthers might be a possibility for quarterback Colin Kaepernick (above). AP

Colin Kaepernick’s agent, Mark Geragos, says his client wants to play again, and suggests teams for which he might play. Because of the status of Cam Newton’s shoulder, and the presence of Eric Reid, Geragos suggests that the Carolina Panthers are one of them.

Like that, the great Kaepernick debate is on. But that’s not accurate, because the great Kaepernick debate never ended. Every time an NFL quarterback appears to cost his team a victory, Kaepernick’s name is invoked. His name also is invoked every time a player takes a knee during the national anthem.

Kaepernick will turn 32 in November. The last time he played in the NFL, 2016, he was 28. His San Francisco 49ers went 2-14 that season, 1-10 when Kaepernick started.

In 2015, Kaepernick started eight games and went 2-6. Worse, Blaine Gabbert replaced him. Those were bad teams, and their problems superseded quarterback.

Yet, under the right circumstances, I’d like to see Kaepernick in a Carolina uniform. Those circumstances: Kaepernick accepts that if Newton’s shoulder, on which he had surgery this offseason, has healed, he backs up Newton, and accepts his role going in; Kaepernick is willing to sign for back-up money.

If Newton can’t start, Carolina gets a deal. If Newton can, the Panthers get a reserve with experience and athleticism. Kaepernick has a lot of rust to shake off. But he’ll have a healthy and rested body with which to shake it.

Ideally, the Panthers would sign him for one year, just as they did with Kaepernick’s former 49ers teammate, Eric Reid. Reid proved he could play, and last week the Panthers signed him to a three-year, $22-million contract.

After a strong start to his career, Kaepernick became an average quarterback. Look around the NFL. How many teams have a starter or top reserve that is average at best? If you count with your fingers, you’ll need both hands.

Carolina’s best reserve quarterback appears to be Kyle Allen, 22. Undrafted out of Houston, the Panthers signed him, cut him, signed him to the practice squad, cut him, signed him to the practice squad and, in the final game of the 2018 season, started him.

Allen played well in the finale. But he played well against the New Orleans Saints, a lock for the NFC’s top seed in the playoffs, who appeared to have little interest in winning.

We know more about Kaepernick than we do Allen. We know he’s 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, was drafted in 2011, same as Newton, and although not as big as Newton, he's better at sliding and stepping out of bounds.

Ah, but Kaepernick was the first NFL player to protest racial inequality by taking a knee during the anthem. If Carolina signed him, the attention he’d attract would be enormous. Media -- local, regional and national -- would converge on Spartanburg for training camp, and every Marriott within 25 miles would be booked.

But Kaepernick would be a distraction only if the Panthers allowed him to be, and they wouldn’t. The owner gets it. Management gets it. The players get it.

Fans, however, would react, some favorably and some unfavorably. Either way, they’d show up to offer an opinion.

Kaepernick would trigger letters to the editor, calls to talk shows news and sports, and Tweets from people with pretend names.

How many fans boycotted the Panthers after they signed Reid, the second player to take a knee, to a one-year contract? How many will boycott the Panthers because last week they signed Reid, who had a good season, to a three-year contract?

The fans that are first to yell, “I’m boycotting,” often are the least likely to boycott. During the NFL’s four-month lockout in 2011, many fans shouted, “I’m finished with the NFL!” If you care enough to be overcome with that kind of emotion, you’re probably not finished with the NFL. As ratings attest, they weren’t.

Once the newness of Kaepernick wears off, politics won’t matter. What matters is if Kaepernick can play.

I don’t know if he returns to the NFL. I don’t know if the Panthers consider a reserve quarterback a priority. If they’re confident that Newton will return with his right arm intact, they can select a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft.

Kaepernick might be finished with football, and football might be finished with him. But if he’s not, this is a possibility the Panthers at least should consider.

Can Machado stretch that $300 million?

Manny Machado reportedly signed the richest free-agent contract in U.S. history Monday, with the San Diego Padres – 10 years, $300 million.

Machado is 26, was born in Florida, and last season hit .297 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs. He plays third base and shortstop beautifully.

This strikes me as a lot of money. I have more than usual in my wallet. I don’t know why. But I have $126.

Add that to my accounts, and to all the money I didn’t inherit, I still don’t have $300 million. I’ll be honest. I’m not close.

But let’s say I’m Machado, though, and instead of collecting $30 million a year, I get all $300 million at once. What would you do with $300 million?

Me? I buy a house on the water at Bald Head Island, a big place so I could put up relatives and friends, and I know I’ll have more of both than I do now. I found a house there for $12 million.

If I live on the water, I’ll need a boat. I found a 100-meter yacht for $275 million. The price struck me as steep until I realized that it included a crew of 50. What a deal.

Me to Bald Head Island harbormaster: “Excuse me. Clear the harbor. Rich guy with a crew coming through.”

Harbormaster to me: “Buddy, you’re the 10th guy to tell me that today, and it’s not even noon.”

House plus boat equals $287 million. Man, $300 million doesn’t go as far as it used to.

I give $1 million to Charlotte’s Crisis Assistance Ministry, which does great work, and $1 million to the foundations of Carolina Panthers and former Panthers Thomas Davis, Steve Smith Sr. and Greg Olsen. I’ve been to events that the foundations of Davis and Smith have sponsored, multiple events in Davis’ case, and each time I was moved. I’ve never been to one of Olsen’s. But I trust him.

House plus boat plus Crisis Assistance Ministry plus Davis, Smith and Olsen equals $291 million. I’ll have only $9 million left.

I’ll help family, but I don’t know if any of them would take my money, so I’d have to sneak it to them.

“Hey, who left $50,000 worth of $20 bills beneath the mat by the back door?”

The car I drive, a convertible, is the best I’ve ever had, but it’s 10 years old. I buy another convertible, and it would be cool to supplement it with an SUV for those occasions when only a big vehicle will do. I could be the driver who doesn’t park the SUV in a space reserved for a compact. But I can’t see myself driving one, let alone owning one. Despite my money, I’d be a one-car guy.

I live in a post-divorce condominium, so I buy a house in Charlotte. I buy some new jeans, some new black or white T-shirts, and white or blue long-sleeve shirts. I buy furniture for the houses. I buy wine, the good stuff that goes for, like, $20 a bottle.

Beach house, boat, relatives, Crisis Assistance and foundations, car, Charlotte house, clothes, furniture and wine wouldn’t use the entire $300 million. I’d know I’d have to pay taxes. But, you know, not much.

Is anybody, let alone a third baseman/shortstop, worth $300 million? Of course not. But we’re not paid what we’re worth, as good police officers and good teachers will attest. We’re paid what we can get.

Three hundred million dollars sounds absurd, but I’ve never resented the money athletes make, not locally, not nationally and not internationally. It’s not as if a giant finger pointed down from the sky and said, “You will play in the NFL or NBA or Major Leagues, and become rich.”

About the money, think of this: How many of us pick up a baseball, as Machado picked up a baseball, and throw it or catch it or hit it? How many of us work our way through the minors to the major leagues? How many of us are so utterly coveted that when we attain free agency we can command the $300 million Machado commanded from the Padres?

Let me put $300 million in perspective. You know how much $300 million is?

Machado will be able to afford to live in San Diego.

Kemba a gracious host

Kemba Walker couldn’t shoot Saturday or Sunday, but he can shoot. And pass. He gave the ball up more freely and effectively in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game than anybody else, although Steph Curry had the best pass of the evening and one of the best in the game’s history, the big bounce pass to Giannis Antetokounmpo for the big dunk.

Curry finished with seven assists, as did Ben Simmons. Walker had a game-high eight. That’s a host, right there. Walker gave players tips on where to eat, and he gave teammates the ball.

I like Walker professionally and personally. The Charlotte Hornets could not have a better emissary. But, and I’ve been consistent on this, I think that to escape the lower-middle class Eastern Conference trap they’re in, the Hornets have to avoid giving Walker a max-contract when he becomes a free agent after the season.

The Hornets had a good draft in the first year of the Mitch Kupchak era. But they’re not close to being a good team.

A good team doesn’t compete for the conference’s sixth, seventh or eighth position. It competes for one of the first four. Charlotte isn’t close.

It’s a strange game, isn’t it? Walker improves as dramatically as any player I’ve seen. Incrementally, and year by year, his long-range and mid-range shots improve, and he better finds his teammates and goes to the basket. That’s a testament to will and work.

If Walker offers the Hornets an I Like Charlotte discount, great. But the team still doesn’t have a 1A to Walker’s 1. Who is Charlotte’s second-best player?

Is it Jeremy Lamb? Lamb, 26, is doing nice work. He averages 15.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and shoots 44.2% from the field and 33.5% from behind the 3-point line.

But look at the teams capable of winning a playoff series. On how many of those teams would Lamb be the second-best player? OK, on how many teams would Walker be the best?

If the Hornets retain Walker, they have to add talent. But how do they do that? Not a single big-time free agent has ever come our way. Look at the cities in which free agents land. Such cities offer talented rosters, big market opportunities and, often, eternal sunshine and palm trees. In the world of the talented free agent, Charlotte might as well be Montana.

Maybe All-Star weekend will change perspectives. How many complaints did you hear about Charlotte? I heard one, from a friend who said he wanted to go to the game but didn’t want to pay $1,000 for a way up there upper deck ticket. Charlotte performed.

Maybe a free-agent talent will be so moved that he’ll decide he wants to live in and play for Charlotte. Maybe the Hornets will be able to afford him. Maybe he’ll become an immediate star or develop into one. Maybe Kupchak will have an even better draft. If all those things happen, Charlotte will stop dancing around the .500 mark and win.

I like the Hornets organization, and I’d like to see them become a playoff factor.

But they’re too good to finish at the bottom and win a high draft pick, yet not good enough to win a playoff series. That’s a rough pace to be. Unfortunately, they’re accustomed to it.

Daytona 500 gives NASCAR a needed boost

Can NASCAR become as big as it once was? There was a time when proponents believed that NASCAR was ready to take on the NFL and become the country’s biggest sport.

Obviously that time ended, and catching the NFL is not realistic. We write so frequently about what NASCAR isn’t that sometimes we forget what it is.

At the Daytona 500, it was rollicking and exciting and entertaining. There was carnage, the big one, a big crowd, a thrilling finish and a moving tribute to J.D. Gibbs, the oldest son of Joe Gibbs. The younger Gibbs died in January after battling a degenerative neurological disease.

Joe Gibbs' cars beautifully finished one, two and three.

Whatever you like in sports, you could find it in Daytona. There was bumping and grinding and close racing, and even the makings of a feud.

Last season’s champion, Joey Logano, was angry that fellow Ford driver Michael McDowell didn’t offer the push Logano expected at the end of the race. After the race, Logano walked to McDowell's car, pointed to the Ford insignia, and wondered why McDowell abandoned him.

Logano is a star. McDowell is a guy whose name you probably didn’t know before Sunday. Rarely does McDowell get a chance to compete for a victory. On Sunday, he did, and he took it.

These guys are at opposite ends of the socioeconomic racing spectrum. Logano can relax at the track in a nice champion worthy motor home. When McDowell needs a break, he probably puts up a tent.

The underdog’s allegiance was not to his manufacturer, but to his team and to himself.

So how do these guys treat each other Sunday? Probably they don’t do anything. Logano might be so far in front of McDowell that all McDowell can do is wave and wish him a good trip. Yet, what’s NASCAR without a feud, even if it wears off the next time the flag is waved.

NASCAR gathers at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. I hadn’t planned to watch. But after the Daytona 500, and all the promise it showcased, I have to catch at least part of it.

Short takes: Celebrate Hurricanes’ celebrations; Charlotte, N.C., really?

▪ The worst seats at Spectrum Center for the All-Star Game went for $1,000 up to two days before the game, and some of the good seats went for $5,000. I’m not inflating those numbers. By Sunday, the price predictably dropped by half…

▪ Hockey? I don't follow it. But I’ll watch the Carolina Hurricanes celebrate at home after a victory. Their baseball takeoff was great. The pitcher throws, the batter hits and tosses his bat as he begins to circle imaginary bases. Fans love it and the players enjoy it.

▪ Almost every story I read about NBA All-Star Game festivities that used a Charlotte dateline followed it with: N.C. The theory is that if the writer doesn’t add N.C. to Charlotte, nobody will know where Charlotte is.

We have an NFL team and an NBA team. We have Michael Jordan and Cam Newton. We have many churches, and almost as many banks. We lead the Southeast in square and rectangular apartment buildings, and almost nobody can match us in cranes.

What I’m saying is, if you don’t know what state Charlotte is in, that’s your fault…

▪ Christy Martin, the longtime women’s lightweight champion, who lives in Charlotte, will promote a boxing card Saturday at CenterStage@NoDa. Charlotte and N.C. fighters will be featured, including Charlotte’s Stevie Massey and Jamaal Gregory, and Wilson’s Kelvin King.

Massey and Gregory are slick boxer-punchers. King is pure power. I’ve seen him fight once. If you weren’t in your seat when the fight began, you missed the quick knockout he delivered.

Doors open at 6 p.m., and fights begin at 7. Ringside tickets are $70, general admission $35, and kids six and under get in free...

That’s boxing in NoDa. There also will be boxing Friday and Saturday at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center – The Roughest and Toughest Brawl. Fighters without professional experience will fight in three men’s weight classes. Women’s weight classes have yet to be determined; depends on how many enter.

Fighters pay $50 to compete. They’ll fight three one-minute rounds. Winners Friday advance to Saturday’s competition. Tickets are $16 in advance and $20 at the door. Doors open at 6:30, and fights begin at 8 p.m.

For more information, go to www.roughestandtoughest.com. Tell them Big Mike sent you.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

  Comments