Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he regrets not signing Colin Kaepernick in 2017, and denied that a second meeting with the quarterback was scuttled in 2018 because of the team's uncertainty about whether he planned to continue kneeling during the national anthem.
Speaking with reporters via video conference Thursday, Carroll also revealed that he received a phone call earlier in the day from another team asking about Kaepernick, saying that hadn't happened until now. Carroll wouldn't disclose whom the call was from, but it left him with the impression that at least one team is currently interested in the quarterback.
Kaepernick visited the Seahawks in the spring of 2017 after he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers, making him a free agent. Carroll's reasoning for not signing him at the time was that the Seahawks felt he was a starter and they already had one in Russell Wilson. Carroll added Thursday that he was certain Kaepernick would be starting somewhere else that season.
Kaepernick, who began protesting social injustice and police brutality against black people by not standing during the national anthem in 2016, has yet to be signed since becoming a free agent. He and former 49ers teammate Eric Reid reached a settlement with the NFL concerning their collusion grievances against the league in February 2019.
Carroll made multiple mentions during his hourlong video conference of how he wished Seattle had signed Kaepernick in 2017. One was in response to a question about the Seahawks possibly signing him now and giving him a platform to discuss issues that are currently being protested throughout the country.
"I regret that we weren't the one way back when that just did it just to do it, even though I thought that it wasn't the right fit necessarily for us at the time," Carroll said. "The reason it wasn't the right fit is because I held him in such a high regard I didn't see him as a backup quarterback and I didn't want to put him in that situation with Russ. It just didn't feel like it would fit right. That's the way I felt about it. So I just wish it would happen, and I wish we would have been a part of it when the time was available then. We're kind of set up right now, so football-wise, it doesn't seem to fit us like I said. But there's a lot of time here. We'll see what happens."
Carroll said it's clear now that Kaepernick was "right on point" with what he was protesting.
"He was right on it," the coach said. "He was right on the topics about police brutality and inequality, and he was right on the subject matter at the time. That's so obvious now where maybe all of the flak that flew about not honoring the flag and all the other things that were not even a part of the demonstration or what his intent was at all, that just skewed the whole discussion, I don't think that's around now. It's different at this time frame."
Carroll revealed that Kaepernick, then still a member of the division-rival 49ers, reached out to him during the 2016 season "for some advice about where he would go next." He said that when Kaepernick visited the Seahawks the following spring, Carroll wanted to see if the quarterback could be a fit in Seattle football-wise and believed that if not, the meeting could still help open up doors for him elsewhere.
"We had great meetings," Carroll said. "I don't know if I had ever explained it in as much depth, but we spent half a day together and he spent time with our people throughout the building and almost a full day, and he was awesome. He just backed up even more of the play that we had seen and the character and his smarts and his togetherness and his competitiveness to the point where it was so obvious that he's a starter in the NFL. That's what I think I eventually wound up ... saying to you guys, that he was a dominant figure as a football player and that's how we saw him.
"The fact that it didn't work out for us, I figured he was going to wind up starting somewhere for sure, and it just didn't happen. So the rest of that story is one that I regret that that didn't happen in some fashion. I wish we would have contributed to it because the guy deserved to play. I thought at the time, just our situation, as a backup, man, I didn't feel it was right at that time. So I had to make that football decision. It was about our team and the situation. We had our starting quarterback and all of that, and it wasn't going to be the open competitive situation that I like to think all of our spots are because Russ was such a dominant figure and all that."
As for the 2018 meeting that never came to fruition, Carroll said the topic of Kaepernick continuing to kneel wasn't even brought up in their discussions beforehand. He noted that several Seahawks had already been demonstrating before games, including some who stayed in the locker room during the national anthem. He said the Seahawks' questions to Kaepernick about his "plan" were related to football -- e.g., whether or not he'd be content serving as a backup.
"That went out like that was the issue," Carroll said of Kaepernick continuing to protest. "That was never the issue."
In addition to their meeting in 2017 and the one that fell through the following year, the Seahawks sent a scout to attend Kaepernick's workout in Atlanta in November, though the scout didn't make it once the venue changed that day.
The Seahawks recently re-signed Geno Smith, who backed up Wilson last season.
"I like our setup right now," Carroll said when asked if the Seahawks would consider Kaepernick provided he was willing to be a backup. "I love the way Geno fits together in our role and all that, so it's not really available at this time for us. But I wouldn't hesitate -- I've said this ongoing for years -- if Russ ever got tangled up and couldn't play or something, Kap would have been an extraordinary candidate to take over because of the dynamics of his play. We've always really cherished the unique qualities that players bring, and he had a unique style that we couldn't [have] respected more. But as the backup, I hope he's going to get a chance to do that because really he deserves to be playing."
When asked if he thinks another team will give Kaepernick a chance this season, Carroll mentioned the call he received from another team earlier in the day. His only previous communication with another club about Kaepernick, he said, was before their meeting in 2017 when he called Jim Harbaugh, who coached Kaepernick in San Francisco. Carroll said Harbaugh "glowingly supported" Kaepernick.
"After all of the time, the years that have passed, I never received a phone call about it," Carroll said. "I never talked to another head coach about it. I never talked to anyone about it until today. I got a phone call today. I won't tell you who it was but I got a phone call today asking inquiring about the situation, so I know somebody is interested. So we'll see what happens with that."