Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh spoke briefly Monday about his former quarterback’s decision not to stand during the national anthem, and then he revised his remarks with an apology on Twitter.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was Harbaugh’s starter for most of his four-year head coaching tenure (2011-2014) in the NFL, made a statement Friday night by refusing to stand during the national anthem before a preseason game.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media after the game against the Green Bay Packers in Santa Clara, Calif. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Asked on Monday about Kaepernick’s action, Harbaugh said only: “I acknowledge his right to do that, but I don’t respect the motivation or the action.”
About an hour later, though, he did walk back that stance by writing on Twitter, “I apologize for misspeaking my true sentiments. To clarify, I support Colin’s motivation. It’s his method of action that I take exception to.”
Harbaugh made Kaepernick his starting quarterback in San Francisco midway through the 2012 season, and Kaepernick kept the job until Harbaugh left. The 49ers reached the Super Bowl after the 2012 season with Kaepernick under center.
HARBAUGH COY ABOUT QUARTERBACKS: Harbaugh appeared close to announcing a starting quarterback Monday in his weekly press conference.
“We know who our starting quarterback is, yes,” Harbaugh said. “And yeah, I’ll say who our starting quarterback is before Saturday. … To you? I didn’t say I was going to say it to you before Saturday.”
Harbaugh clarified that the quarterbacks know who the starter is. The front-runners at the beginning of camp were redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight and redshirt junior John O’Korn, but it doesn’t appear that Harbaugh will announce a winner until Michigan’s noon kickoff Saturday against Hawaii at Michigan Stadium.
The rest of the players — senior tight end Jake Butt, senior cornerback Jourdan Lewis, fifth-year senior defensive end Chris Wormley and fifth-year senior wide receiver Amara Darboh were each available Monday — claim they’re in the dark about who will start.
“He hasn’t even put a depth chart out there, so I can’t even … I can’t even tell you I’m starting,” Lewis quipped.
LEFT TACKLE ALSO UNSETTLED: A less publicized position battle is at left tackle, between sophomore Grant Newsome and freshman Ben Bredeson. Offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said last week that both were competing for the spot, and Harbaugh said Monday that is still the case.
“Ben’s in that position — he is very close. I certainly wouldn’t anticipate any kind of not playing for Ben Bredeson. He’s acquainting himself very well.”
Harbaugh also pointed out that college football has no preseason or exhibition games, unlike all of the major professional sports and many other college sports. The first time Bredeson goes in the game will be the first time the coaches see him in live college action.
ALLEN BUSY AGAIN: When graduate transfer punter Blake O’Neill left after last season and kicker Kenny Allen returned, it appeared that Allen would be the front-runner to punt, kick field goals and perform kickoffs as a fifth-year senior this year. Harbaugh confirmed Allen is still the leader at those positions.
“Right now, he’s been the best at all three — punting, kickoff and field goals,” Harbaugh said. “And if that remains the case and he’s clearly the best, then he’ll do all three. We’d like for him not to have to do all three. It’s just closer in the other areas, kickoffs and field goals.”
Another option would be true freshman Quinn Nordin, the top high school kicker recruit in the country according to 247Sports.com. Harbaugh also mentioned sophomore Ryan Tice at kicker.