The NFL's football operations department had alerted Roger Goodell in October that two teams were legitimately interested in Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick's representatives had released a statement reiterating his readiness to return to the NFL.
In the weeks following the statement, the NFL's football operations team discussed with Goodell the feasibility of reaching out to Kaepernick. Goodell ultimately approved it. "Inside and outside," an NFL source says, "the thought was, 'Let's provide him the opportunity.'"
The NFL believed holding individual workouts for the two teams interested in Kaepernick would have resulted in media attention that might have made those teams reluctant to proceed. The NFL instead decided to hold an unprecedented league-hosted workout.
"It was the commissioner's idea, no doubt about it," a league source says. "This was a way to deal with it without the torrent of media information, the level of distraction. Bringing him in to a single team would have them bear the brunt of all of that media attention."
Kaepernick's camp believed the misery teams were the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions, but it didn't find the information credible. The Falcons had never expressed interest in Kaepernick while the Lions were starting Jeff Driskel in place of Matthew Stafford.