Ravens' leaders: Colin Kaepernick would be accepted in their locker room

BALTIMORE -- Baltimore Ravens officials acknowledged that they have received differing opinions when talking to former players, fans and sponsors about the possible addition of free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

But the Ravens indicated Sunday that Kaepernick would be accepted in their locker room.

Kaepernick drew national attention last season when he knelt during the national anthem before games as a protest of social injustice, which he said he will no longer do in 2017. Linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Ravens' longest-tenured player on the roster, said he would welcome the signing of Kaepernick.

"Hell yeah, if he's going to help us win," Suggs told ESPN on Sunday night. "We have no issues. Not in the locker room. Hell yeah, we want him."

Ravens officials said they have contacted Kaepernick directly, and they're keeping the "door open" on signing him. Starting quarterback Joe Flacco is expected to be sidelined with a back injury for about a week, and backup Ryan Mallett is struggling in his place with the first-team offense.

"I would love to have him to come challenge some other quarterbacks," said defensive back Lardarius Webb, who is in his ninth season in Baltimore. "We all know Joe is our guy. We love Mallett. But yeah, we all would like competition around here to make everyone better."

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said he cares about the team's fan base, some of whom likely took umbrage with Kaepernick's protest, but that he has to "absorb" the opinions of the players that have been there.

General manager Ozzie Newsome had a long conversation with tight end Benjamin Watson about Kaepernick. From his hospital bed following surgery on his Achilles last year, Watson addressed Kaepernick on Facebook, saying he would stand for the national anthem and hopes the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback's actions will bring more attention to the problem than the protester.

"This locker room is one where everybody has a respect for other people when they don't have the same point of view," Watson said. "There are a lot of strong personalities. One thing I noticed before I got to the Ravens, I heard the Ravens organization would allow you to be yourself. That's the culture that's here."

A handful of players declined to talk about Kaepernick. Others were more terse about the subject.

"We're worried about the Ravens right now," Mallett said. "If he comes, cool. If he doesn't, cool. We don't really care about that right now."

Last week, Flacco said he liked the idea of Kaepernick joining the Ravens.

"I would like to see Colin get back in [the NFL] and, at some point, maybe get another shot [to be a starter]," Flacco said. "I wouldn't like that to be here. I do not want him to get another shot [to be a starter] here, but yes, he can come here and have some fun. I think it would be a good spot for him."

Ravens safety Tony Jefferson has worked out with Kaepernick during the offseason and has spoken with him a few times.

As a member of the Arizona Cardinals, Jefferson played against Kaepernick last November, when he nearly lost to Kaepernick. Kaepernick totaled 265 yards (210 passing, 55 rushing) and tied the game at 20-20 with a 4-yard TD run with 1:55 to play. The Cardinals answered to win, 23-20.

"Colin can play," Jefferson said Sunday. "The guy can make plays. He's fast. He has a great arm. I would love to have him."

The Ravens have received a lot of phone calls since the team expressed interest in Kaepernick. On social media and local sports talk radio, fans have threatened to sell their season tickets if Baltimore signed Kaepernick.

"We don't have to beat around the bush, obviously a lot of people have strong opinions about him," Watson said. "I think we have to be careful not to condemn him personally or hate him personally because of his point of view."