LAS VEGAS (BVM) – When it was announced that former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick received a tryout with the Las Vegas Raiders, the Twittersphere went into a frenzy. Not only was this the best opportunity given to the former Pro Bowler since his last tryout with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, but it was a sign that perhaps the NFL was finally open to giving him a chance after years of controversy following his off-the-field activism. Though Kaepernick hasn’t dressed for an NFL game since 2016, he has been adamant for another opportunity at football’s highest level and has worked tirelessly to achieve that goal.
The #Raiders are actually working out FA QB Colin Kaepernick today, source said. His first workout in years.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 25, 2022
While the potential six–year gap between playing time is something that fans, scouts and teams will look at as a detriment to Kaepernick’s pursuit, this is not as rare of a feat as one might first think. There have been a number of NFL players who have attempted or made comebacks after long absences, here are some of the most notable.
- Lyle Alzado
Alzado retired from the NFL in 1985 after 15 seasons in the NFL with three different teams. The defensive end would make an attempt to return to the league in 1990 at 41 years old, but an injury in training camp left him off of the Raiders’ final roster and he would officially retire in the offseason.
- Ricky Williams
Williams had an up-and-down career and early trouble with the league caused Williams to suddenly retire in 2004. After a couple of suspensions which included missing the entire 2006 season, Williams returned to the Dolphins in 2007 and in 2008 would rush for over 1,000 yards, giving him the NFL record of six years between 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He officially retired in 2012 after a short stint with the Ravens.
- Doug Flutie
Flutie is the rare case where he never truly stopped playing football after being forced out of the NFL in 1990. Instead, the quarterback became a CFL legend over eight seasons in the league before returning to the NFL with the Buffalo Bills in 1998 and playing eight more years before his retirement in 2006 at age 43.
- Tim Hightower
Hightower was a serviceable change of pace running back throughout his six year NFL career, but was forced into an early exit from the league before the start of the 2012 season. After playing one game in the 2014 Fall Experimental Football League, Hightower signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2015 and would have two productive seasons with the team before retiring.
- Steve DeBerg
DeBerg had retired after the 1993 season with the Dolphins and even coached as a QB coach for the New York Giants from 1995 to 1996 before Dan Reeves convinced him to come out of retirement and be the backup quarterback for his 1998 Atlanta Falcons squad. The oldest player to ever be on a Super Bowl roster at age 45, he’d retire after that lone season.
- Marcus Dupree
Though he didn’t make an entrance into the NFL out of college, former Oklahoma star running back Marcus Dupree played two years of professional football with the USFL before injuries forced his retirement from the league in 1985. Miraculously, Dupree would make a return to pro football with the Los Angeles Rams in 1990 where he played two seasons rushing for 251 yards and a score.
- Robert Edwards
Edwards exploded on the scene as a rookie for the New England Patriots, rushing for 1,115 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 35 passes for 331 yards and three scores in 1998. A devastating knee injury during the NFL rookie flag football game at the Pro Bowl kept Edwards out three seasons before he returned to the Miami Dolphins in 2002, scoring two touchdowns in his first game back before a brief career in the CFL.
- Deion Sanders
After retiring in July 2001 after a lackluster season with Washington, “Neon” returned to the NFL to play with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004. Wearing No. 37 to signify his age that season, Sanders would play in both 2004 and 2005 before retiring for the final time in the 2006 offseason.
- Michael Vick
Though Vick had a rough exit from the NFL in 2007 after a suspension due to dog fighting, the QB returned to the league in 2009 after spending two years in prison. Following one year as Donovan McNabb’s backup for the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick would become the team’s starter in 2010, eventually winning Comeback Player of the Year and playing five more seasons.
- Bronko Nagurski
After retiring in 1937 due to a contract dispute, the Hall of Fame fullback returned to the Chicago Bears in 1943 to help buoy the team after they lost players to battle in World War II. Not only was Nagurski solid for Chicago, but he would help the team win their third NFL title in four years with a 41-21 win over Washington.