Colin Kaepernick is back in Madden NFL for the first time since the 2016 season.
The free-agent quarterback has returned to the virtual gridiron via an update released by EA Sports on Tuesday.
"Colin Kaepernick is one of the top free agents in football and a starting-caliber quarterback," the video game company said in a statement. "The team at EA SPORTS, along with millions of Madden NFL fans, want to see him back in our game. We've had a long relationship with Colin through Madden NFL and worked through our past soundtrack mistakes.
"Knowing that our EA SPORTS experiences are platforms for players to create, we want to make Madden NFL a place that reflects Colin's position and talent, rates him as a starting QB, and empowers our fans to express their hopes for the future of football. We've worked with Colin to make this possible, and we're excited to bring it to all of you today.
"Starting today in Madden NFL 21, fans can put Colin Kaepernick at the helm of any NFL team in Franchise mode, as well as play with him in Play Now. We look forward to seeing Colin on Madden NFL teams everywhere."
After becoming and remaining a free agent following the 2016 season, Kaepernick did not appear in a Madden NFL game from 2017-2019 due to the company losing his licensing rights. In a mistake mentioned in EA Sports' above statement, the company removed direct references to Kaepernick in lyrics to two songs featured on soundtracks in Madden NFL 18 and Madden NFL 19 before fixing the error and apologizing publicly.
EA Sports was undoubtedly serious when referring to Kaepernick as a starting-caliber quarterback. His overall rating of 81 makes him the 16th-highest-rated signal-caller in the game, ahead of the likes of Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr, 2019 Comeback Player of the Year Ryan Tannehill and newly anointed Patriots starter Cam Newton. Kaepernick ranks just behind Ben Roethlisberger and Kirk Cousins, among others, ensuring he'll be a popular addition for Franchise mode players looking to bolster their virtual quarterback rooms.
Kaepernick's character model will also represent his updated appearance and off-field activism of the last four years. His virtual player will sport his trademark afro for the first time after previously featuring cornrows in his headshot in previous editions of Madden NFL.