As NFL training camps opened this week Cheap Mark Andrews Jersey , complete with interminable speculation about position battles, rookies who might make an impact and what players can or can't do while "The Star-Spangled Banner" is playing, let's remember two players who aren't suiting up.
Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are good enough to be playing for someone.
That much is beyond debate.
But the league has decided to make an example of them, a clear warning to its employees that only so much social activism will be tolerated even while it feigns a sense of respecting their desire to protest during the national anthem.
If the NFL were really concerned about its players, it wouldn't be denying these two their well-earned right to make a living.
Rest assured, history won't be kind when it looks back on the way Kaepernick and Reid were treated by the NFL.
"Both of those guys are NFL talents. Both of them are quality players that can contribute to a roster and contribute to a team winning. They've proven it," New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said. "I do think that 100 percent of the reason why they're not on a roster is the other stuff that they're standing for is outweighing the risk a team wants to take to put them on a roster."
Kaepernick and Reid are following the same path as social warriors who came before them.
Muhammad Ali, who was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title and barred from the ring for more than three years after he refused induction into the military during the Vietnam War.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who defiantly stood with their fists in the air on the medal podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to protest the way black people were 鈥?and still are 鈥?being treated in America.
Ali, Smith and Carlos were vilified at the time.
Now, they're viewed at heroes 鈥?but only after making huge personal, professional and financial sacrifices to stand up for what they believed.
Kaepernick and Reid are making those same sacrifices.
"I do think it's sad and I want those guys to be on teams because I know they're good enough to play," Watson said. "I hate to see them not be employed in the National Football League, where they should be, simply because they decided to protest and bring attention to systemic oppression, police brutality, injustice 鈥?all the things they stated over and over again Mike Hughes Jersey , which I think are things that we all should be concerned about."
As of Friday, Kaepernick has gone 572 days since his last snap in the NFL. Tellingly enough, he turned in one of his better performances in what might go down as his final game.
On New Year's Day 2017, playing behind a leaky offensive line that left him running for his life (he was sacked five times), Kaepernick completed 17 of 22 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown in San Francisco's 25-23 loss to Seattle. His 122.3 rating was the seventh highest of his 69 career games.
But the NFL would have you believe he's not good enough to play in a league that will employ just under 100 quarterbacks this season, many of them older than Kaepernick (who is still more than three months shy of his 31st birthday, presumably just entering what should be his prime years) and lacking a resume that includes leading his team to the Super Bowl.
Of course, we all know the real reason Kaepernick has effectively been blacklisted from the league 鈥?his decision to first sit, then kneel during the national anthem throughout the 2016 season, sparking a debate that carried all the way to the White House.
Reid bravely joined Kaepernick in his stoic, symbolic gesture, and carried on the kneeling when his former teammate was sidelined for the entire 2016 season.
For that, he's now paying the price.
Despite being beyond qualified for a spot in the NFL 鈥?26 years old, a former first-round pick, a starter in 69 of 70 games over five years with the 49ers, 10 career interceptions, an average of 65 tackles per season Cowboys Jihad Ward Jersey , a Pro Bowler in 2013 鈥?Reid has been deemed unworthy of employment by each and every one of the league's 32 teams.
What makes the treatment of Kaepernick and Reid even more perplexing: The owners and their non-blacklisted players continue to be locked in a back-and-forth squabble over whether protesting during the anthem is a legitimate way to address social injustice in this country.
(Spoiler alert: It is.)
The issue remains a thorn in the league's side, even after Kaepernick and Reid were cast aside.
"Nothing lasts forever, and this is coming close to lasting way too long," Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown groaned.
Before there's any more discussion about sitting or kneeling or staying in the locker room, the players 鈥?all of them, black and white 鈥?should demand justice for Kaepernick and Reid.
While both have filed collusion grievances, the NFL has lots of highly paid lawyers who will surely try to drag this thing out as long as possible, soaking up prime seasons they'll never get back.
But all those players who are lucky enough to have a job, some of whom were just as visible and vocal in their calls for social justice, should be pondering what they can do to help get Kaepernick and Reid back on the field.
Maybe a one-day sickout during training camp. Or kneeling en masse before the first game. Perhaps, as a last resort, they should consider an actual strike.
Like Kaepernick and Reid, they need to be willing to make some huge sacrifices.
After all, they could be next.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at pnewberry1963 His work can be found at s://apnews/search/paul%20newberry
AP Sports Writers Brett Martel in New Orleans and Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
Already owning one of the strongest defensive lines in the league, the Minnesota Vikings have made another addition to their front four this summer.
He even was a former first-round draft pick.
Anthony Barr has established his place as the strong side linebacker, an integral part of coach Mike Zimmer's pressure-driven scheme. This switch is not by any means complete or permanent, considering the value Barr has given the Vikings while rarely missing a snap in the middle of the defense with former college teammate Eric Kendricks. With Brian Robison capably spelling Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter at the defensive end spots Ezekiel Elliott Jersey , there's not a glaring need for one.
Sliding Barr and his athleticism and speed to the front, though, provides yet another way Zimmer and the Vikings can attack an offense.
"Definitely, it could be a change-up for us," Barr said. "Hopefully I can get a couple more opportunities to do that, and we'll see where it goes. It's something I'm going to continue to work on and get better at. I'm excited for it."
The Vikings have used passing-situation packages this offseason that include cornerback Terence Newman at safety while making Harrison Smith a hybrid linebacker. Put Barr at defensive end, and Everson Griffen can move inside. Or Barr could simply line up as a fifth down lineman. Either way, that's the potential for quite the fierce pass rush.
"We are just trying to utilize our guys the best way we can," Zimmer said. "If a guy has a skill set of being possibly a pass rusher, then we're going to look at him and see if he can be a pass rusher. If a guy's a great inside cover guy, then we're going to try and look at him there."
Barr has taken plenty of turns with the defensive linemen during individual drills in training camp so far, evidence that this is more than just a token experiment.
"It's a conscious effort in getting him into rush situations where he knows what to do," Zimmer said. "I really don't have any concerns when he's rushing on a back, but sometimes when he gets on a bigger stronger guy and gets in certain positions, he has to know what to do."
Barr was the first player the Vikings drafted after hiring Zimmer in 2014, the ninth overall selection out of UCLA who spent only two years with the Bruins on defense after beginning his college career as a running back. With 10陆 sacks, six forced fumbles Jackie Robinson Jersey , four fumble recoveries and one interception over four seasons, Barr has left himself plenty of room to improve on such modest statistics. There are many more ways to contribute than those basic measurements, of course, but Zimmer's matter-of-fact assessment in 2016 that Barr "has a tendency to coast a little bit" still hovers over his trajectory.
Across the NFL, Barr is known mostly for his hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the sixth game of the year that led to a broken collarbone and set the NFC North rivals on opposite courses in 2017. Interestingly, referee Pete Morelli told reporters at Minnesota's practice facility on Thursday that the league's stricter rules about targeting defenseless players would now make that play a 15-yard penalty.
Barr is the only core player left on an expiring contract, with extensions recently signed by wide receiver Stefon Diggs, defensive end Danielle Hunter and Kendricks. Barr's salary for 2018 is a little more than $12.3 million, and he hinted at disappointment when spring practices began without a new deal. He didn't address the subject in his first remarks to reporters at training camp.
"My focus is here at camp, getting better with the team, and we'll let that figure itself out," he said.
If this defensive end thing works well, Barr's price will only go higher.
"I'll never talk business out in the open or in public," general manager Rick Spielman said. "I'll just tell you he fits everything that we want as a Minnesota Viking."