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Fifty-six days after the start of NFL free agency, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.

What’s happening here? That depends on who is asked. Some players believe Kaepernick is being ignored because of his decision to kneel during the national anthem before games last season. Others believe the issues are more complex and involve his on-field regression and potential distractions he’d bring to a franchise.

At this point, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Kaepernick has played his last snap.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” 49ers safety Eric Reid said. “It’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media PR reasons. And it’s sad. You’re doing something to better the world. … He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation, without the anthem, they would be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

performance or protest?

By Eric Branch
May 3, 2017 Updated: May 3, 2017 5:14pm

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Safety Eric Reid and then-teammate Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem before the 49ers’ opener last year. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press
Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press
Safety Eric Reid and then-teammate Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem before the 49ers’ opener last year.

Fifty-six days after the start of NFL free agency, former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed.

What’s happening here? That depends on who is asked. Some players believe Kaepernick is being ignored because of his decision to kneel during the national anthem before games last season. Others believe the issues are more complex and involve his on-field regression and potential distractions he’d bring to a franchise.

At this point, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if Kaepernick has played his last snap.

“I think it’s unfortunate,” 49ers safety Eric Reid said. “It’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media PR reasons. And it’s sad. You’re doing something to better the world. … He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation, without the anthem, they would be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

Reid and Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall, who played with Kaepernick at Nevada, have said Kaepernick’s anthem stance and outspokenness on social issues have made NFL teams wary. Reid and Marshall joined Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem.

Reid said he and 49ers linebacker Eli Harold will stand this season because they thought they had accomplished their goal of raising awareness.

In March, Kaepernick helped secure an airplane and $1 million in aid to assist with the famine in Somalia. On Monday, Kaepernick, who recently was named one of Time magazine’s most 100 influential people of 2017, handed out custom-made suits outside a parole office in New York. He also has made good on his August pledge to donate $1 million, and all proceeds from his jersey sales, to community organizations.

“He’s probably being blackballed,” Marshall said to the Denver Post. “Maybe part of it is owners don’t want their franchise tagged with that. But I still stand by what I said (on Twitter), that he’s the best quarterback in free agency.”

Kaepernick’s career had steadily nose-dived since he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season, but he made a modest comeback last year. After replacing Blaine Gabbert in October, he threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions, posted his best passer rating (90.7) since 2013 and ranked second among quarterbacks in rushing yards (468).

NFL teams have signed 17 free-agent quarterbacks this offseason, but Kaepernick, 29, isn’t alone. Jay Cutler and Ryan Fitzpatrick, longtime starters who had career-best seasons in 2015, haven’t been signed. In addition, Robert Griffin III, whose skills to run as well as pass mirror those of Kaepernick and are no longer in vogue, is still a free agent.

In March, a week before the start of free agency, it was reported Kaepernick would stand for the anthem in 2017. Given the timing, it was viewed by many as a way to ease concerns teams might have about signing a free agent bound to alienate some fans.

However, Kaepernick, whether he stands or not, probably won’t be able to fade into the background, even though he most likely will be a backup. Last year, for example, he created headlines for wearing socks that depicted police officers as pigs and offering controversial views on now-deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Kaepernick also ripped Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and declined to vote in the presidential election.

An NFL agent who likes Kaepernick personally and believes his “heart is in the right place” thinks NFL teams would prefer their second-stringer to blend in with the scenery.

“I just don’t think he’s good enough right now to be a distraction,” the agent said. “Every team is different, so I don’t want to speak in generalities, but I don’t feel like the majority of teams have any problem with his stance. Or are so old-fashioned or right wing that they say, ‘We don’t want a guy that didn’t stand for the anthem.’

“I think it’s more ‘We don’t want our starting quarterback, our staring receiver and our head coach to have to answer questions about things that don’t have to do with football every week.’”

From a football perspective, teams also want their backup quarterbacks to transition seamlessly into their offense if their starter is sidelined. Given that, the Seattle Seahawks, who have a dual-threat starter in Russell Wilson and no proven backups, have been viewed as a logical landing spot for Kaepernick.

Kaepernick’s playing style was a turnoff for new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has acknowledged he didn’t want to alter his system to account for a quarterback who isn’t a traditional passer. Last season, Kaepernick ranked 26th in the NFL in completion percentage (59.2).

In addition, Kaepernick’s salary demands are not known. He earned $22.3 million in base salary the past two seasons, but he probably will need to take a deep pay cut to sign.

It’s conceivable Kaepernick, who will turn 30 in November and clearly has passions beyond football, is ready to retire if an attractive offer isn’t forthcoming.

Kaepernick’s agent, Jeff Nalley, didn’t respond to an interview request, and the rest of the NFL remains silent when it comes to his client.

But Reid is happy to give his support.

“I just think it’s sad that this is the situation,” Reid said, “but I’m rooting for him. I’m praying for him.”