BOSTON (CBS) — Back in 2017, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was happy to sit back quietly as all 32 teams opted to pass over Colin Kaepernick, who was entering his prime and was just three years removed from leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance. Now three years later, Goodell has chosen to become a public advocate for the hiring of Kaepernick.

Speaking to ESPN on Monday night as part of the network’s “Return of Sports” special, Goodell said he encourages teams to sign Kaepernick.

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“Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, that obviously is going to take a team to make that decision,” Goodell said. “But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that.”

The commissioner, who reversed the NFL’s entire stance on peaceful protests in recent weeks, also left open the possibility of the league opening its doors for Kaepernick to contribute in other ways, if he does not wish to pursue a football career.

“If his efforts are not on the field but in continuing to work in this space, we welcome [him] to that table and to be able to help us and guide us and help us make better decisions about the kind of things that need to be done in communities,” Goodell said. “We have invited him in before and we want to make sure that everybody’s welcome at that table, and trying to help us deal with some very complex and difficult issues that have been around unfortunately for a long time. But I hope we’re at a point now where everybody’s committed to making a long-term, sustainable change.”

On Tuesday, executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said on Adam Schefter’s podcast that he adamantly believes Kaepernick is worthy of an NFL job.

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“This young man is talented enough to play in the National Football League. I believed that back in 2016 — whenever it was, 2016 or 2017 — and I still believe that today,” Vincent said. “And he just hasn’t had the opportunity to display his talents once again, whether it was in camp or in preseason. But that’s always been my position, it’s been many of my colleagues’ position, and frankly the commissioner’s office’s position. But we can’t hire. And again, Adam, my comments that I’ve just made, they’ve been documented on the record, in front of a judge, about the work and the efforts that many of us, w’re working on behalf of looking for Colin to land a spot.”

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Whether a team actually signs Kaepernick after a three-year absence from the NFL remains a legitimate question. But for now, some of the league’s top executives are actively promoting teams to do just that, representing a significant change of course for a league that had to settle out of court with the same player.