If you can help us win, you'll be accepted. That was the message delivered by a pair of quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton, when they were asked about the prospect of a gay player, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, joining their locker room.
"I think when he steps into that locker room, everyone's going to know he's there to help us win games," said Kaepernick on ESPN's SportsCenter on Sunday. "That's why you're in the NFL: to help us win games. No one cares if you're black, white, straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, whatever it may be. When you step on that field, you're a member of, in my case, the 49ers. Or the Carolina Panthers. That's your job. That's your occupation."
Sam, who came out last week, likely will be converted into a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL and is expected to be a mid-round selection in May. Said Newton: "The main focus with football players is we're here in this organization for one reason and one reason only, and if you're helping us attain that winning success, your personal life is your personal life."
The quarterbacks are co-hosting the Cartoon Network's "Hall of Game" awards tonight. Kaepernick was a presenter last year. Kaepernick and Newton were roommates at the scouting combine in Indianapolis three years ago and both are eligible for contract extensions this offseason. Both will become the highest-paid players on their teams when those deals are signed.
Kaepernick was also was asked about the allegations of bullying and psychological abuse among the Dolphins offensive linemen and whether that had an impact on what happened inside the 49ers' locker room in 2013. "Nothing on our team changed," Kaepernick said. "I think we have a very tight-knit group in our locker room. We joke around. We have a good time. We'll mess with each other here and there. But it's all in good fun. At the end of the day, we know that when we step on the field, they're on our side and they're helping us win games."
One of the key figures in the Dolphins story, one-time Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin, is currently taking classes at Stanford. He remains under contract with the Dolphins but is unlikely to return to the team. His agent will meet with Dolphins officials this week in Indianapolis. One scenario is that another squad trades for Martin. The 49ers have 12 picks in the upcoming draft.
Coach Jim Harbaugh, who recruited Martin, said during an investigation into the bullying charges that Martin functioned well when he played for Harbaugh at Stanford, that the 49ers' locker-room atmosphere was not all that different than Stanford's and that he expects Martin will be able to resume his NFL career.
- Matt Barrows