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Jets' Zach Sudfeld recalls ex-mate Colin Kaepernick and his 'strong' will

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets tight end Zach Sudfeld spent three years with Colin Kaepernick at the University of Nevada. While he was surprised by his former teammate's protest over the national anthem, Sudfeld said Kaepernick always struck him as someone willing to take a stance.

"He's definitely a man of strong convictions, he definitely is," Sudfeld told ESPN.com on Monday. "If he sees something is wrong, he's going to say something about it and isn't afraid. I admire him for that, but ... In this situation, it's hard to comment because I haven't talked to him about it. We don't communicate a whole lot anymore."

The San Francisco 49ers' quarterback sparked a national controversy over the weekend by remaining seated during the national anthem. Afterward, he told reporters he sat because he didn't want to show pride in a country that oppresses people of color.

"Yeah, it did surprise me," Sudfeld said. "The thing is, we never talked politics in college. We talked about the pistol offense and some other things and we took classes together. We never talked politics.

"I really don't know what to say," he added. "I guess everyone has the freedom to do whatever they want and to object in whatever way they see fitting. I know for me and the guys I played with at Nevada -- at least the ones I know well and I'm close with -- we would choose to stand for the national anthem as a sign of respect.

"Those guys I played with, there's a big support for our military out there," Sudfeld said of the Nevada school. "I know we had a lot of military personnel, even from the USS Nevada, that would come to practice. There was a lot of support and Kaep was always great with them. They all loved him and he loved them. He treated everyone well. I'm not sure what the situation is, but it's definitely interesting. It's tough. As a sign of respect, you stand for the national anthem."

Jets coach Todd Bowles was asked how he'd feel if one of his players sat during the anthem.

"They have that right," he said. "That's what the country is about. They have that right. We all have the right to do what we want."

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick issued a no stern "no comment" on the Kaepernick controversy.

"I don't care to comment on it," he said.

Asked a follow-up question, Fitzpatrick replied, "I don't care to comment on it. Thank you."