While military obligation did not keep U.S. Naval Academy graduate and New England Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona from playing in the NFL during his rookie season, the upcoming year might be a different story.
In an interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was discussing former Navy quarterback and current Baltimore Ravens rookie Keenan Reynolds. In doing so, he brought up Cardona, saying that he might have to leave the Patriots for the 2016 season.
“We’ve got Joe Cardona, long snapper for the Patriots. He played last year for the Patriots. While he was on active duty because he was able to work them both out. He’s been assigned to a ship and he’s going to report to that ship. So he may have to leave the Patriots for the year to go fulfill that role.”
Cardona’s commitments to the Navy have always made his status with the Patriots unknown, which is reflected in his contract. He was selected by New England in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and played in all 16 regular season games during his rookie season.
Regarding Reynolds, Mabus indicated that he was “confident that we can work something out for Keenan to do both. To serve his country and to play professional football.”
This is not a situation without precedent. The NFL’s Roger Staubach and the NBA’s David Robinson both had eventual Hall of Fame careers delayed due to Naval commitments.
Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva graduated from West Point, did three tours of duty in Afghanistan, and is still a captain in the United States Army.