According to Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, outside linebacker John Rabold will try out with the Denver Broncos on Thursday.
Rabold won’t be participating in a mini-camp, like inside linebacker Drew Fowler did with the Detroit Lions and running back/receiver/returner Chad Hall did with the Atlanta Falcons. But it’s at least a chance to show what he can do. Calhoun said if Rabold impresses the Broncos, he could get invited to a camp.
Here’s a big problem for all Air Force players trying to catch on with NFL teams: With NFL Europe folding, the NFL now allows teams to have only 80 players on their rosters at the start of training camp. There are no additional exemptions. That cut out about eight players on each of the 30 teams and undoubtedly has made teams less likely to invite kids who will have to serve on active duty in the military for two years before getting a chance to play.
Speaking of that two-year policy …
David Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, has sent a letter to the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force to clarify the Department of Defense policy regarding officers playing professional sports, Air Force Academy sports information director Troy Garnhart said.
The policy, issued last August and implemented on Jan. 1, 2008, states officers must serve two years of active duty before applying for excess leave or early release from active duty to pursue a professional sports career.
But while Air Force and Navy both are following that policy closely, Army players are able to go straight to the NFL as long as they earn a roster spot. Why? In 2005 the Army instituted what it calls its Alternative Service Option Program. It allows graduates who remain on rosters to play professionally and serve as part-time Army recruiters.
Army basically is saying that program overrules the DoD policy.
While I don’t know this for sure, I’m guessing Chu’s letter was sent to try to rein in Army – to encourage strongly that Army follow the DoD policy to the letter like Air Force and Navy.
Army’s policy came under scrutiny after Caleb Campbell, an Army defensive back, was selected in the seventh round of the recent NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. The selection brought tons of publicity to Campbell and Army. And not all of it was positive.
Folks at both Air Force and Navy think the rules should be the same for all three service academies. They think Army’s policy gives it a recruiting advantage over its service academy rivals. And many question how Army could justify it. The DoD policy, after all, is extremely clear: You must serve two years of active duty before you play pro ball. As Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told The Annapolis Capital, “Army has redefined active duty to include playing professional sports.”
Whether Chu’s letter will cause the Army to alter its policy is uncertain. When I inquired about Army’s policy shortly after the draft, Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a press officer for the department of defense, wrote me an e-mail that stated, in part, “it is up to the Military Departments to interpret and apply that policy.”
I guess Army could stick by its interpretation and contend playing professional sports while serving as a part-time recruiter constitutes active duty service.
But even if it does, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of the discussion on this policy.