Count Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians among those unhappy with the Department of Defense’s new policy regarding service academy graduates.
"I think it's dumb,” Arians told ESPN after Friday’s rookie minicamp practice.
Arians and the Cardinals brought in Air Force defensive end Ryan Watson for a tryout this weekend. Under a short-lived policy that was changed just before the NFL draft in late April, Watson could have had the potential to make the team just like any other undrafted free agent.
Instead, the military again adopted the long-standing rule that was in place prior to 2016 that requires graduates of service academies to serve two years on active duty before applying for a reserves for the purpose of playing professional sports.
Unless this current class is grandfathered in under the previous rules, Watson and the other four Air Force players scattered at minicamps this weekend can hope only to leave an impression and hope their services are desired 24 months from now.
Arians told ESPN there would be a chance that the Cardinals would circle back to Watson after two years.
“He's earned it,” the coach said of Watson, who registered nine sacks for the Falcons this past season.
As Watson spends the weekend with the Cardinals, receiver Jalen Robinette is working out with the Buffalo Bills, safety Weston Steelhammer with the Philadelphia Eagles, lineman Sam Byers with the Atlanta Falcons and outside linebacker/defensive back Jacob Onyechi with the New Orleans Saints.
Watson told ESPN that his time in an NFL camp was “definitely a tease,” but he told The Gazette last week that any decisions regarding his future were ones he would accept and were beyond his control.
“I came to the Air Force Academy to be a lieutenant,” said Watson, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound four-year contributor with the Falcons. “I feel like that decision is above my pay grade, and I will obey the lawful orders from those over me. I may not understand it. I may not agree with it. But it’s the situation.”