The newest Seattle Seahawk, running back Carlos Hyde, was a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 when their quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, began kneeling during the national anthem.
Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since the end of that season.
But Hyde hopes this will be the year Kaepernick is back in the league.
During a Zoom video chat with reporters who cover the Seahawks, Hyde said he thinks if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is serious about his statement Friday that the league is ready to be “part of the much-needed change in this country,” there is one easy way to prove it to players —welcome Kaepernick back with open arms.
“What can the NFL do?” Hyde said, repeating a question. “I think the NFL can start by signing Kaep back. I think if they sign Kaep back, that will show that they’re really trying to move in a different direction, because Kaep was making a statement four years ago about what’s going on in today’s world, and the NFL didn’t bother to listen to him then. So I think they should start by doing that.”
Kaepernick became a free agent following the 2016 season and had a workout with the Seahawks in 2017, after which coach Pete Carroll said that “he’s a starter in this league.”
The implication was that with Russell Wilson on Seattle’s roster, Carroll felt Kaepernick deserved a chance to go to a team where he’d get a better chance to start.
The Seahawks talked to Kaepernick again in 2018, but a workout was canceled after Seattle asked Kaepernick about his plans for his activism, including if he would continue to kneel during the national anthem — something he began doing in protest of social injustice, and in particular police brutality. Kaepernick told the team he was unclear on his intentions.
Seattle has two backups behind Wilson in Geno Smith — who was the backup last year — and Anthony Gordon, a rookie out of Washington State. Though there has been lots of speculation the past few days about whether a team might sign Kaepernick, especially in the wake of the NFL’s statement Friday, there have been no reports linking him to any teams.
Hyde, who played for the 49ers from 2014-17 after a standout career at Ohio State, said the 49ers understood what Kaepernick was protesting for from the beginning.
“I’ve listened to him, what he was protesting about, and that’s all I needed to hear,” Hyde said. “That’s his decision he was making, and that’s where he wanted to go. That was his decision. I had to still worry about football. I wanted to win. We still had a season to play.”
Those last three sentences also seem to typify the attitude Hyde plans to bring to Seattle after signing a one-year contract (worth up to $2.75 million) last month to add depth at tailback with Rashaad Penny unlikely to be ready for the start of the 2020 season due to a knee injury suffered in December.
Asked if he would protest this season in the wake of the NFL’s statement last week that “we encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest,” Hyde said he had no specific plans.
“I don’t plan on protesting,” he said. “But if it’s something that the team wants to do and our team decides as a team we are going to protest together, then I am with the team at all times.”
Seattle will be Hyde’s fifth team since leaving the 49ers in 2017.
He was with the Browns and Jaguars in 2018, then was in camp with the Chiefs in 2019 before being traded to Houston.
He turned in the best year of his career with the Texans, breaking the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time with 1,070. He played the final 14 games of the year and two more in the playoffs with a torn labrum in his shoulder that required offseason surgery.
Hyde reportedly turned down a two-year contract worth up to $10 million to stay in Houston, opting instead to enter free agency.
But the shoulder injury and the COVID-19 pandemic might have contributed to Hyde not getting that same kind of offer, and then having to wait until late May to sign a deal.
The pandemic resulted in the NFL putting in restrictions that meant free agents couldn’t travel to team facilities for physicals.
“I think it was because of my shoulder and the restrictions in each state,” Hyde said of remaining unsigned for more than two months.
Hyde said he suffered in the injury in Week 2 last season and worried initially how it would impact his play.
“I didn’t have any setbacks with it,” he said. “I just kind of played through it. I would wrap it up, and I figured if I ran hard enough then nobody could hit me on my shoulder. So I just figured I needed to run harder.”
But if free agency might not have gone as planned, Hyde said he’s happy to be in Seattle, where he said the Seahawks’ use of the zone read with Wilson is a good fit.
The Seahawks signed Hyde after failing to come to an agreement with free agent Devonta Freeman, with the pursuit of both showing how much they wanted an experienced insurance policy at tailback after the injuries that decimated the position late last season.
Hyde insisted his own health shouldn’t be an issue heading into this season.
He’s been spending much of the offseason in Houston, where he said he is able to visit a rehab specialist.
“I think I’m on time to participate when we get to camp,” Hyde said. “And by Week 1 (of the regular season) I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready to go. I feel good, and I feel like my shoulder has gotten a lot stronger than what it was feeling before I got the surgery. So things are definitely going in the right direction.”