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Shield Talk: offseason review

From+left%2C+San+Francisco+49ers%27+Eli+Harold+%2858%29%2C+quarterback+Colin+Kaepernick+%287%29+and+Eric+Reid+%2835%29+kneel+during+the+national+anthem+before+their+NFL+game+against+the+Dallas+Cowboys+on+Sunday%2C+Oct.+2%2C+2016+in+Santa+Clara%2C+Calif.+%28Nhat+V.+Meyer%2FBay+Area+News+Group%2FTribune+News+Service%29
From left, San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/Tribune News Service)

From left, San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/Tribune News Service)

From left, San Francisco 49ers' Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group/Tribune News Service)

Brent Jansen, Columnist

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The nightmare is over. The National Football League’s preseason has kicked off and football is officially back. A lot has happened in the seven months that football has been away. Here are some highlights of the offseason drama:

Kaepernick still jobless

During the offseason, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco suffered a minor back injury. Since the Ravens’ roster depth is weak, with Ryan Mallet being the only recognizable name, the team played with the idea of signing Colin Kaepernick as their back-up.

Kaepernick came under heavy public scrutiny last season when he decided to kneel during the National Anthem before games to protest the killings of black men and women by the hands of police officers. Now, NFL owners are reluctant to sign Kaepernick due to concern about fan reaction.

Some say that Baltimore would be the perfect fit for Kaepernick since the issue he fights for are so relevant to the city, but so far Ravens owner Steve Biscotti has voiced his disapproval of Kaepernick’s protests last season but has not completely shut the door on signing the quarterback

What is clear is that the decision to sign Kaepernick is becoming less of a football decision and more of a political one. He’s a Super Bowl-contending quarterback and could be a vital asset to any team, regardless of the politics that surround him. While last season wasn’t astounding for him in terms of numbers, Kaepernick is still the best available quarterback on the market and any team would be lucky to have him on the bench. The name of the game is football, not politics.

Unstoppable Pats

After the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots have some of the highest odds to return to the playoffs in recent history.

In Las Vegas, according to ESPN’s Ben Arledge, the Patriots are at -2500 odds to make the playoffs, meaning a gambler would have to bet $2500 to make $100 back. While the Patriots being the dominant team entering the season is nothing new, something seems different about this season.

Tom Brady recently turned 40 years old and is playing like he is 30. The Patriots acquired a deep threat in Brandin Cooks, who had a breakout season with the New Orleans Saints last year. Alongside Cooks is veteran receiver Julian Edelman and newly-minted star Chris Hogan, both of whom provide Brady with enough firepower to scare the League’s toughest secondaries.

When Belichick was asked about his stellar team going undefeated during a press conference at training camp, Belichick said he just wanted the team to have “a good day.” Humble, but it doesn’t change the fact that this team is one of the most dominant (on paper) in recent years.

UNCW graduate student and avid Patriots fan Pat Gosier isn’t concerned with the hype, either. Gosier referenced the weakness of other teams in the AFC East rather than boasting his team, talking a lot like Belichick himself.

“With (Ryan) Tannehill getting injured and the Sammy Watkins trade, I don’t think there will be much competition in the AFC East,” Gosier said.

Marshawn Lynch out of retirement

After a single season, Marshawn Lynch has come out of retirement to play for his hometown team in Oakland.

With the acquisition of Lynch, the Raiders are now seen as the top candidates in the AFC to stop the Patriots. As long as quarterback Derek Carr can recover from the broken fibula he suffered before the 2016 playoffs, the Raiders offense is set to be one of the most dynamic in the entire NFL.

Where the Raiders’ might struggle, however, is defense. While they have an incredible pass rusher with Khalil Mack, they are missing several pieces in the secondary, which is why the Patriots are heavily favored in the AFC. Regardless, the acquisition of Lynch by the Raiders makes them the obvious competitor for the AFC Championship.

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Shield Talk: offseason review