By Eric Edholm Shutdown Corner
Two prominent Navy football players will be allowed to continue their NFL dreams this season.
U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced on “The Dan Patrick Show” on Friday that New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona and Baltimore Ravens receiver-returner Keenan Reynolds will be allowed to play in the league this season.
The Navy typically receives five-year service commitments from its graduates in exchange for their education, but a Navy spokesman told Shutdown Corner that it is up to the discretion of the Secretary to make alternative arrangements to fill the commitment.
It’s a touchy subject both inside and outside the service academies when these exceptions are granted, as it appears that athletes are given favorable treatment over regular servicemen and servicewomen. On the one hand, the academy doesn’t like the idea of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax money to produce NFL players.
But for Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo and his staff, this ruling has to be a huge victory — it’s great marketing for the academies, but even more for him, it’s a chance to go to recruits and promise the possibility of playing in the NFL without a lot of red tape. Which, of course, is a slippery slope; given this ruling on Cardona and Reynolds, future Middies with NFL dreams clearly will assume their path to the league will be unencumbered, too.
There was some doubt after Mabus suggested that Cardona, a 2015 graduate of the Naval Academy, might have to miss the upcoming season — or more — because of his military duty. The 2015 sixth-rounder snapped in all 16 regular-season games for the Patriots last season, along with two playoff contests. In his time away from the team, including this offseason, Cardona has performed naval service work.
Reynolds, the record-breaking option quarterback who finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season, was a sixth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens. Now that he knows he’s full steam ahead with the Navy, he can concentrate on doing two things — catching passes and punts — that he did little or none of in college.
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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!