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Fans react to possibility of Ravens signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick

Ravens coach John Harbaugh talks about the team's possible interest in signing free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

Since last year's NFL preseason, when Colin Kaepernick sparked debate throughout the country by not standing during the national anthem, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has become a polarizing figure.

Some appreciate his outspoken approach to bring attention to social justice, and others view his actions as unpatriotic. While the 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback has started 51 games in the past four seasons, critics also argue he has been inconsistent since the Ravens beat him in the 2013 Super Bowl.

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When the Ravens opened training camp Thursday without quarterback Joe Flacco (back), coach John Harbaugh created a local dynamic to that conversation by saying he'd been in touch with Kaepernick throughout the summer and wouldn't rule out the team signing him.

Fan reaction was mixed, but many said Kaepernick's skills outweigh any potential distraction.

"It would be good," said Colin Fonmedig, an Ellicott City resident who works in IT for the Baltimore Police Department. "That would mean America is a land of tolerance. That episode should not define him."

Jerome Davis, a Ravens fan from Catonsville, feels the NFL has "blackballed" Kaepernick.

The quarterback rebounded from the 49ers benching him during the 2015 season to start 11 of his 12 games last year, completing 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,241 yards. He passed for 16 touchdowns compared to four interceptions.

But Kaepernick, 29, has participated in just one public tryout with a team since opting out of his contract with the 49ers in March. The Seattle Seahawks evaluated him in May, but signed journeyman Austin Davis instead.

"[The NFL] is trying to use him to make a statement," Jerome Davis said. "As far as I'm concerned, I don't really consider that a controversy. It's just his opinion of expressing himself and letting it known nationwide that we do have a problem with prejudice, and I don't think there's a problem with that. If he feels that way, I think you should have the right to do so."

Other fans cited Kaepernick's platform for free speech, too.

April Bowe of Glen Burnie called Kaepernick's efforts "patriotic" by turning his anthem protest into community service and advocacy. Malcolm Rubinstein, who lives in downtown Baltimore, called Kaepernick "a guy with a brain" and a viable backup in Flacco's absence.

"I'm sure there would be people who are very unwelcoming of him," Rubinstein said. "But that makes for sports. It's controversial."

Some weren't pleased with Harbaugh's comments.

Sandi Nickelsen of Morristown, N.J., called Kaepernick "nuts" and questioned how his parents' raised him.

Barry Rorrer of Columbia "didn't see the point" of adding Kaepernick's distraction and ensuing media attention because "there are better quarterbacks out there."

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"I don't see him as a team player, and that's what the Ravens are — a team," Rorrer said. "It's like, 'Hey, look at me. I'm protesting.'"

But that freedom of expression is why Jeffery Kendrick, executive director of the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training, respects Kaepernick's demonstration.

Kendrick was in the Air Force for 23 years. While he understands the backlash from veterans and military supporters, Kendrick said he served for Kaepernick's right to take action and fans' choice to decide whether to root for his team.

"I applaud the Ravens for saying, 'Listen, we understand both positions, but here's a man who can come in and help us win ballgames,'" Kendrick said. "When you're looking at professional sports, that's the bottom line."

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