Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to discuss topics, including three quarterbacks who have made headlines in recent weeks for very different reasons.
One of those quarterbacks, of course, is Colin Kaepernick, who is refusing to stand for the national anthem to protest the treatment of minorities in America.
“You got to respect it,” Orakpo said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “You got to do nothing but respect his opinion. That’s what makes this country so great. Whether you like it or not, you have to respect his opinion. Don’t just judge his actions; listen to what he’s actually saying and his point of view. Whether you agree with it or not, he’s entitled to his own opinion. That’s how I feel about it.”
Orakpo, 30, was an All-American at Texas and the 13th overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft. He said he would not have a problem if one of his teammates sat during the national anthem.
“No, it wouldn’t rub me the wrong way if he was able to explain his message, which Kaepernick did with the player-only meeting or if the coaches want to get some knowledge about it as well,” Orakpo said. “Let’s everybody sit down and let’s talk about it and let’s get everything out in the open. That’s what they did. You can’t do nothing but respect his opinion.”
Orakpo, who played for the Redskins from 2009 to 2014, knows all about quarterback drama, which is why playing in Tennessee must seem like heaven on earth. That’s because 22-year-old Marcus Mariota is one of the quietest, most drama-free quarterbacks in football. The former Heisman winner threw for 2,818 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 12 games as a rookie.
As he enters his second season, Mariota looks like one of the best young leaders in the game.
“He’s definitely matured from that standpoint,” Orakpo said. “He’s taken the bull by the horn. The guy is commanding the offense, the huddle. The way he’s able to make changes and the way he’s able to lead those guys and be positive for the offense and the team in general has been a good thing. He’s night and day from when he first got here. He’s still learning, he still wants to get better, but he seems almost like he’s ready to take the next level and be an elite quarterback in this league. He’s out there making plays, play after play, not only with his feet, but just the accuracy with the ball. It’s been impressive just to see his maturity throughout the offseason.”
Brandon Tierney wondered if Mariota needed to change his quiet, unassuming personality to be more of a leader at the NFL level, but Orakpo says he doesn’t.
“No, he don’t have to change anything. Everybody leads in a different way,” Orakpo said. “Don’t let the quiet Marcus fool you. It’s a perception. He’s very fiery. He’s very energetic in his own way. He may come off like a real laid-back type of guy, which he is at times, but once he straps up and he puts that jersey on, he’s an animal out there. A silent assassin is what we like to call him. We’re very excited by what he brings to the table. He’s really taken that leadership role to another level and doing it his way and his way that he feels comfortable (with).”
The Titans, who are 5-27 over the last two seasons, desperately want to improve on last year’s 3-13 finish. They open at home against Minnesota, which will be without Teddy Bridgwater, who tore his ACL at practice Tuesday. Bridgewater, 23, will miss the entire 2016 season.
Orakpo was asked whether he would rather face the Vikings with or without Bridgewater.
“I definitely want the best,” he said. “I definitely want the best. But I understand in the NFL, a win is a win – regardless of how it comes. But it’s so unfortunate. Prayers out for Teddy Bridgewater. The guy is a phenomenal player. Just to see a horrendous injury happen like that, especially this late in the preseason, is definitely unfortunate for that organization. I know he has a lot of support from his bothers around the league. It’s a fraternity. Regardless of what team or who you play for, we’re all brothers in this. Hopefully he can have a speedy recovery.”