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Colin Kaepernick scored first in his legal showdown with the NFL.

In the end Alexander
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, there aren't likely to be any real winners.

Kaepernick's collusion case against the league that doesn't have a place for
him took a big step forward when an arbitrator turned back the NFL's request for
a summary judgment 鈥?in essence, ruling that there was at least enough evidence
to proceed to a full-blown, binding arbitration hearing for the former San
Francisco 49ers quarterback.

The longer this whole mess drags on, the worse it is for a league that has
already taken quite a public-relations battering over its players taking a knee
during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

Then again, it's hard to see an outcome where Kaepernick gets what he really
wants: a chance to play again in the NFL.

His playing career, in all likelihood, is over.

"This is good news for Kaepernick that it goes forward, but my feeling all
along has not changed: This is uphill climb for him," said Andrew Brandt,
executive director of the Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law at Villanova
University.

"To prove collusion is more than just teams deciding for whatever reason that
they prefer other quarterbacks to Colin Kaepernick. That's not collusion,"
Brandt went on. "Collusion is two or more teams 鈥?backed up with evidence
鈥?deciding not to sign Colin Kaepernick. Colluding is two or more NFL entities
colluding against signing him."

While it seems abundantly clear that the NFL has blackballed Kaepernick, as
well as his former teammate Eric Reid (who also has a collusion grievance
against the league), actually proving this is a coordinated effort is a whole
different matter.

"This has been going on for quite a while and we've not seen any smoking
guns, at least not publicly," Brandt said Friday in a telephone interview. "In
our 24-hour media, with so much focus on this, I would think if there's a
smoking gun, we would've seen it by now."

Even if one emerges and Kaepernick claims an overwhelming legal victory,
he'll have to settle for being a very rich but still very much unemployed former
NFL quarterback.

Arbitrator Stephen Burbank can award tens of millions of dollars in
damages.

He can't order a team to give Kaepernick a job.

That said, the NFL can't seem to break free of a divisive issue that could
have far-reaching implications down the road, especially when the
collective-bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season. An already testy
relationship with the players 鈥?some of whom have carried on Kaepernick's cause
by kneeling or raising a fist during the national anthem 鈥?only figures to get
worse.

Heck, the league already had to back off the supposed national anthem policy
it adopted in late May, which would've allowed players to stay in the locker
room as a form of absent protest but required them to stand if they came on the
field.

"This is really a lose-lose situation for the league," said Jodi Balsam, who
worked in the NFL's legal office from 1994-2007 and now teaches sports law at
Brooklyn Law School and New York University. "Obviously if the NFL loses, they
have a lot at stake. But even if they win on the merits 鈥?and Alex
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, by the way, all the odds-makers say they will
win on the merits 鈥?it's still a loss. They will have had to litigate this with
all the distractions and expense. That means Colin Kaepernick is still on the
public stage for another few months as the hearing plays out."

Now that the case is moving forward, it could be ripe for a settlement.

The minute Burbank turned them down, the NFL's lawyers were surely advising
their billionaire clients that it might be a good time to write out a big fat
check to Kaepernick as part of a confidential settlement that makes this whole
thing go away.

"This is a leverage point in the arbitration," said Andrew Stoltmann, a
Chicago-based arbitration attorney who has handled more than 1,000 claims.
"Reason would seem to dictate that if there's going to be a settlement, it's
going to happen now, after this arbitrator's decision, or a couple of weeks
before the hearing begins."

But even if the league wants to settle, there's no indication that Kaepernick
is willing to back down. By all indications, he sees this as a higher calling, a
chance to carry through on something far more significant than one man's
professional and financial future. He showed how much it all means to him by
donating $1 million to various social causes even though he didn't have a
job.

"It's extremely dangerous for the NFL that you might have a plaintiff in
Kaepernick who doesn't really care about the money, but rather wants to
embarrass the NFL," Stoltmann said. "But think about it: If you're an unemployed
former athlete and someone dangles a $50 million check in front of you, or a $75
million check, that's extraordinarily hard for any person to reject."

Even if a financial settlement is reached, the NFL will make sure that
there's no admission that it worked in unison to keep Kaepernick out of the
league.

The owners have no intention of giving up their ultimate power over the
players: the right to sign 鈥?and not sign 鈥?whoever they want.

"There's another principle at stake here, the principle that you have
significant discretion as an NFL owner and coach to construct a squad that's not
just based on talent but on character and camaraderie and a community to win,"
Balsam said.

"Are they entitled to make decisions about roster spots and playing time
based on players being team players and conducting themselves in the public
image that the owners want to project? Absolutely. Are they allowed to say Colin
Kaepernick is not right for our team because he's a disruptive presence and we
don't want him on our team? They absolutely have that right."

So, on we go.

Toward an ending with only one likely outcome.

Everyone loses.

Paul Newberr

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers are debuting their own defensive
changes this weekend against the Bears , even if they may not initially make as
much of a splash as Chicago’s acquisition of star linebacker Khalil Mack.

But the effectiveness of those new wrinkles could be just as important to the
fortunes of a team looking to return to the playoffs.

After playing it safe in the preseason, new defensive coordinator Mike
Pettine can finally take the wraps off the Packers’ revamped scheme when the
Bears visit Lambeau Field on Sunday night.

“It just opens up everything,” linebacker Nick Perry said Thursday about the
new defense. “I think from attacking it off the edge, attacking it
inside Youth
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, you have more options to attack.”

The Packers ranked 22nd in defense last year. It was especially a problem
given that quarterback Aaron Rodgers was limited to seven games because of a
collarbone injury.

Rodgers has the talent to be able cover up deficiencies in other areas of the
team. With Rodgers out, everyone else had to step up. Instead, the Packers
finished 7-9 and had its streak of eight straight postseason appearances
snapped.

Changes in the organization included the firing of longtime defensive
coordinator Dom Capers. He was replaced by Pettine, the former head coach of the
Cleveland Browns, who stuck with the 3-4 defense as the base scheme.

So far, so good for the transition.

“I know in preseason, we’re keeping it basic,” inside linebacker Blake
Martinez said. “So it’ll be cool to kind of dive into the playbook on Sunday and
see how we kind of compete and get the job done.”

They will be expected to get pressure with just four outside linebackers on
the roster. Perry and fellow veteran Clay Matthews will be backed up by Reggie
Gilbert, who emerged in the preseason to become the top reserve; and Kyler
Fackrell, a third-round draft pick in 2016.

“It’s a demand,” Perry said. “But at the end of the day, the big guys have
got to kind of take the big load. That’s what they pay us for.”

More pressure might come from up front. Green Bay added Muhammad Wilkerson as
a free agent in the offseason, making the line perhaps the strongest position
group on the team. Stalwarts Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark lead the front, along
with emerging third-year player Dean Lowry and promising second-year pro
Montravius Adams.

More inside pressure might lead to more 1-on-1 opportunities on the outside.
And that’s assuming that Pettine isn’t disguising from where the pressure might
come on a particular play. Even Rodgers has been impressed this preseason by
some different looks on defense.

“We can line up in different spots and attack you. I don’t think we’re just
going to sit there in spots and let people try to pick us apart,” Clark said. “I
feel like if Aaron is saying it, you can only imagine how other quarterbacks can
struggle with it.”

A more effective pass rush can also have the effect of forcing quarterbacks
into making bad throws, which in turn could lead to better pass coverage, which
was another problem area in 2017.

A cornerback group prone to injury the last two seasons has also been
revamped, with veteran Tramon Williams returning to provide leadership. The
Packers also took promising rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with their
first two picks in the draft.

Matthews estimated that the Packers showed just 5 percent of the defensive
playbook during preseason games.

“We definitely have a number of pressures, base defenses, little wrinkles
that we like to think will play in our favor,” Matthews said. “At the end of the
day, we’re going out there and playing defense, and the name of the game is
tackling the ball. That doesn’t change.”

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