Cardinals coach calls Kaepernick ‘heck of a player’

As the 49ers head back to Arizona, they do so without the quarterback who nearly won their last visit: Colin Kaepernick.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is tackled by Markus Golden #44 of the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/) 

A 4-yard touchdown run by Kaepernick with 1:55 remaining pulled the 49ers into a 20-20 tie, only to lose on a Cardinals field goal as time expired.

In memory of that effort, I asked Cardinals coach Bruce Arians on Wednesday whether he’s surprised Kaepernick remains out of the league and whether that soon could change, especially in the wake of so many across the NFL now mimicking Kaepernick’s 2016 national anthem protests.

“In the right system he’s still a heck of a player,” Arians responded on a media conference call. “I don’t really like talking about guys who are not on my team.”

The Cardinals passed on adding Kaepernick this offseason when he became (and remains) a free agent, opting instead to sign former 49ers Blaine Gabbert as their No. 3 quarterback behind Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton.

Could the Canadian Football League be an option for Kaepernick? A CFL scout told me last month that Kaepernick would be ideal for the more wide-open offenses there. The Montreal Alouettes obtained his CFL negotiation rights a month ago, and they’ve reached out to his agent but had no negotiations or tryouts.

“He’s in the midst of some very important things,” Alouettes general manager Kavis Reed told the Montreal Gazette. “We understand there’s a movement going on around him. We’re doing our due diligence and making certain they know we want to see where he’s at. It’s a matter of kicking the tires at this stage.”

Arians opened his call by talking about the 49ers’ current offensive system under coach Kyle Shanahan and Kaepernick’s replacement, Brian Hoyer.

“They’ve got an excellent offensive scheme that’s a proven winner,” Arians said. “Um, Brian Hoyer is a heck of a quarterback for that scheme. He knows it. He doesn’t make many mistakes.”

Hoyer overcame his third interception in as many games last week to nearly rally the 49ers to their first win, only to lose 41-39 to the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers (0-3) are seeking their first win in Arizona since the 2013 regular-season finale this Sunday when they visit the Cardinals (1-2).

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