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Colin Kaepernick vegan diet might be the latest excuse for some NFL teams

I don’t doubt teams question Colin Kaepernick’s vegan diet. However, I am skeptical that many have done sufficient research into his diet.

Colin Kaepernick remains a free agent, and we have seen a whole host of reasons cited. We have heard discussions about aspects of his film, whether or not he’s a distraction in the locker room, and how much money and what kind of role he might want.

On Friday morning, San Francisco 49ers reporter Matt Maiocco offered up something that might be on the radar for some teams: his diet.

Kaepernick switched to a vegan diet, and there was some concern raised about regain muscle mass following his three surgeries. Chip Kelly dealt with questions about it on a fairly regular basis, as Kaepernick was looking slimmer than he had in the past. Earlier this week, MMQB writer Mike Rosenberg said Kaepernick is back to his pre-injury playing weight.

Everybody has an opinion when it comes to Colin Kaepernick, and it is no surprise plenty have something to say about his vegan diet, regardless of their qualifications. I don’t doubt at all that some teams have or will latch on to the vegan diet as a source for concern. Tom Brady has a vegan diet for most of the year, but adds some lean meat in the winter months. Tony Gonzalez once tried going vegan, but had to make some changes after dropping muscle quickly. In 2010, he discussed his diet, which at the time was plant-based, but included a modest amount of “clean meat.”

However, in the years since then, there have been improvements in nutrition science. I had a few minutes this morning to chat with Fergus Connolly, the performance director for the University of Michigan. Connolly first joined Jim Harbaugh as the 49ers director of elite performance in 2014. He left after one year with Jim Tomsula, joining Harbaugh at Michigan.

Connolly said that a vegan diet can work with the proper medical supervision. The big concern is a lack of proteins and certain essential vitamins. Connolly said “great vegan proteins” are now available that are of significant better quality than in the recent past. Kaepernick would also likely need to supplement with a B12 vitamin, but again, with proper supervision, these are not difficult adjustments to make.

As far as the benefits of a vegan diet? Connolly said that with the right supplements and proteins, Kaepernick is likely much healthier because the food is easier to digest, and he can avoid poor fat intake. Connolly said Kaepernick would likely recover faster from bumps and bruises, and is likely able to concentrate better and for longer, and maintain better brain focus.

Connolly said that in his time working with Kaepernick, he found him to be one of the most dedicated athletes he’s ever seen in any professional sport. He is not worried about his physical preparations. As for the weight issues, Connolly said weight is a largely superficial metric for a quarterback, and it is more about having the necessary strength rather than hitting a specific weight goal.

How Colin Kaepernick handles his diet is certainly something a team would want to investigate. That of course would involve speaking with Kaepernick, and considering what nutritionists have to say about the specific type of diet he is involved in. If teams do eventually speak with Kaepernick, maybe it’s a question that comes up. In the meantime, it’s hard to think it’s anything more than a lazy excuse for teams that already have moved on to other options.