Stephen A. Smith believes Colin Kaepernick won't return to the NFL if he "open his damn mouth" in the lead-up to his workout on Saturday.
The league has organized a private event for the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback in Atlanta, Georgia, this Saturday, to which it has invited all the 32 franchises.
The workout will include on-field drills and an interview and represents Kaepernick's best shot at returning to the NFL, three years after playing his last game for the 49ers.
The Wisconsin native rose to prominence in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial discrimination. The gesture split the public opinion in the U.S. and made Kaepernick a global icon, but also contributed to him being ostracized by the league.
After becoming a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, Kaepernick wasn't offered a tryout by any of the 32 teams. He went on to file a lawsuit against the owners, accusing them of colluding with each other to prevent him from returning to the league.
The former Nevada alumni and the NFL reached a settlement in February and the league has since taken the unusual step of organizing the workout for Saturday.
Throughout the last three years, Kaepernick has repeatedly insisted he has kept fit and trained as he did while playing in the hope to be given an opportunity to prove himself. Smith has suggested that despite his enforced hiatus, the 32-year-old was ready to return to professional football.
âOnly Colin Kaepernick can mess this up, itâs beyond all that other stuff now.â— Golic and Wingo (@GolicAndWingo) November 13, 2019
-@stephenasmith on what heâs been told about Kaepernickâs workout in front of NFL teams Saturday. pic.twitter.com/zXer6qQeSD
"There's only two things that will prevent Colin Kaepernick from having a job in the NFL," Smith said while speaking on ESPN Radio's Golic and Wingo show on Wednesday.
"That is one, if he shows up Saturday and can't throw the ball on the damn football field, he's throwing the ball in the stands. He'd have to be that God-awful not to get a legitimate look and potentially have a job next week."
According to Smith, the second sticking point has more to do with Kaepernick's political views than with his on-field ability.
The ESPN host urged the former 49ers quarterback to avoid social media and interview until Saturday and then let his skills do the talking on the field.
"The other thing that could be a hindrance is if he opens his damn mouth and starts talking too much, and scares these teams off and gives them the indication that more of what transpired, that led to all of this, will continue forward," Smith explained.
"Only Colin Kaepernick can mess it up. It's beyond all of that other stuff now. He needs to shut up. No Instagram. No Twitter. No anything. Show up Saturday, work out. Don't say a word before then."
When news of the workout first emerged on Tuesday, Kaepernick admitted being caught by surprise.
Iâm just getting word from my representatives that the NFL league office reached out to them about a workout in Atlanta on Saturday. Iâve been in shape and ready for this for 3 years, canât wait to see the head coaches and GMs on Saturday.— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) November 13, 2019
His representatives subsequently asked the league to reschedule the event for Tuesday—when most coaches and general managers are free—or the following Saturday to give him more time to prepare.
The NFL, however, has refused both requests and confirmed the event will be held this Saturday, although it has backtracked on its decision to agree to provide the list of executives and coaches that will attend the workout.
Eric Reid, who joined Kaepernick's protests when the two played together with the 49ers, has criticized the workout, suggesting it was a public relations move by the NFL.
"I'll believe it when I see it," Reid was quoted as saying by ESPN. "At this point, it feels like a PR stunt. [...] It's disingenuous. They want the appearance of giving Colin a chance, but they give him two hours' notice and tell it has to be on a Saturday when they know decision-makers are traveling. So is this real? We'll see."