Colin Kaepernick Return to NFL Not Physically Realistic

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After a Raiders workout, the Colin Kaepernick chatter has resurfaced. Strictly from a health and medical perspective, this all seems to be a waste of time as it is unlikely Colin Kaepernick can have an effective return to the NFL after a six-year absence.

If it happened, it would be unprecedented in the league. Even if a player worked out hard and stayed in shape, he has not been participating in football activity. We see every time there is a holdout or lockout or delay to start training camp that soft tissue injuries increase. Here we are talking about an athlete who has been out of his sport since 2016 when Barack Obama was still president. And Kaepernick is now 34.

The best quarterback comparison for a return after a multi-year absence is Michael Vick. He was incarcerated for dog fighting and lost two years in the NFL and was subsequently signed by the Eagles. It took him a whole season before he returned to top form.


To compare, Vick was a top player in the league when he was forced out of the game, missed only two seasons, returned at the age of 28 and it still took him a full season on a roster before he was productive again. Kaepernick was no longer a starting QB when he left the NFL, has missed six years and is now 34.

Tim Tebow had a six-year absence from the NFL before his attempted return. After his final stint at QB with the Eagles in 2015, he came back in 2021 as a tight end. He did not make the Jaguars roster, even though he was playing for his former college head coach and was a year younger than Kaepernick.

If Andrew Luck were to unretire, no one would give him a realistic shot to be anywhere near his old self. Yet his chances for physical success would be greater than Kaepernick’s. Luck left only four years ago and is younger than Kaepernick.

Deion Sanders did return after a four-year retirement and lasted a season, but he is a Hall of Famer.

Though many in the media have hoped for a triumphant return to the NFL for Kaepernick, at this time, there seems little to no realistic chance that Kaepernick can physically come back to be a significant contributor in the NFL.


Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.


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  1. He wasn’t even good at his position when he left. He is only doing this to either get another sicker to pay him or re-sign with Nike. He knows his gravy train is disappearing unless he can stir the pot some more and get another contract (not a NFL contract). This is just grandstanding. Thanks for objectively pointing out why it’s absurd to think he will get signed and get a starting position.

  2. What would happen to the NFL if somebody signed him and he ended up getting killed or maimed on the field? All the rah, rah types like Florio would immediately start calling for huge compensation to Kaepernick or his heirs, that the NFL should’ve known better than to put an old, out of shape activist on the field with real players.

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