When Carli Lloyd turned up at the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice last week, it was mostly as a fan. But the lark turned serious when she pulled her right leg back and sent a kick sailing 55 yards through the uprights.
It might have been an audition for the first female NFL player.
Lloyd, the 37-year-old star of the U.S. Women’s World Cup championship teams in 2015 and this summer, grew up an Eagles fan in New Jersey and spent her day off from Sky Blue of the National Women’s Soccer League at the Eagles’ joint practice with the Baltimore Ravens.
After practice, she worked with Eagles kicker Jake Elliott and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, and video quickly went viral, drawing serious speculation about whether she could kick in the NFL. On Tuesday, Lloyd said she could “definitely” do it.
After throwing out the first pitch before the Phillies-Pirates game, Lloyd told NBC Sports Philadelphia that she was considering her options.
“I just casually brought my boots to Eagles practice, did a few kicks, nailed a 55-yarder on my first try and next thing I know everything’s blowing up, and I was laughing about it with my husband at first, but now I’m sort of entertaining the idea,” she said.
Lloyd emphasized that if she was going to take the interest and offers seriously, it would require a lot more than her viral video.
“I think I definitely could do it with the right practice and the right technique and get my steps down and figure all that out,” she said. “But I don’t want to go in there blindly. I want to actually attempt to do it. But I know that I definitely could do it, because anything I set my mind to do I can do it and I actually do kick balls for a living. So, yeah, it’s all about the technique, and we’ll see what happens, but I’m now entertaining the idea.”
Her trainer told Fox Sports that an NFL team had called Monday, offering to let her kick in a preseason game Thursday. Lloyd couldn’t make it work, though, because the national team plays Portugal that night, the last for preseason NFL games before the regular season opens.
“Today, she got another call from another NFL team,” James Galanis told Fox Sports. “The one that called today, I don’t want to say who it is, was willing to put her on the roster for their next [game]. They were willing to put her on the roster.”
The video of Lloyd captured the attention of Hall of Famer Gil Brandt. “Honestly, I don’t think it will be long before we see a woman break through this NFL barrier,” Brandt, the Dallas Cowboys’ vice president of player personnel from 1960 to 1988, tweeted.
Brandt wasn’t kidding, especially given what a dreadful season 2018 was for kickers. Mason Crosby of the Green Bay Packers missed five kicks in one game (four field goals and one extra point); Week 11 was a record-setting day for missed extra-point attempts. And perhaps no team had a more ignominious experience than the Chicago Bears, whose “double-doink” disaster occurred when Cody Parkey’s potential game-winner from 43 yards out was tipped at the line, then hit the left upright and the crossbar. The Bears lost that first-round playoff game to the Eagles, 16-15. “I’d give her an honest tryout,” Brandt added, “if I were, say, the Bears.”
It was pointed out to Brandt that Lloyd wasn’t facing pressure and took too many approach steps, which caused Brandt to counter, “I heard the same kind of things when I was bringing in track athletes and soccer players back in the ’60s.”
A two-time FIFA women’s world player of the year, Lloyd said that in the days since the kick and Brandt’s tweet “there’s been some interesting chatter about it.”
“I think anything is possible,” she said. “It’s been really interesting because, for me, I’m just an athlete, I’m a competitor. But for so many other people, I think they’re starting to think will there ever be a female in the NFL at some point,” she told Sports Illustrated’s Planet Futbol TV. “And I think we’re kind of at that crossroads as far as equality and just women empowerment, so you’re kind of being in the crosshairs of that.
“I’ve definitely got some inquiries; I’ve definitely got some people talking. Anything is possible. But right now, I’m strictly a soccer player, and we’ll see what the future holds.”
But could she actually do it? She told Pro Football Talk’s Peter King: “I could kick field goals all day long. I absolutely love it. There’s a lot the same with kicking a soccer ball and kicking a football. I love kicking long balls in soccer, and it carries over the football. The technique is the same, and I think I’m very accurate. So I started at 25 [at Eagles-Ravens practice], and they kept moving me back. I hit one short, I think. There were a couple with the wind that went wide. I got to 55, and that was it. One take. It was good. I had no idea anyone was videotaping it or putting it on cellphone video. I tried from 57, but it was wide; distance was good. I would have kept going — my competitive nature — but I felt like I was holding them up out there.”
Kickers in the NFL face a different kind of pressure than soccer kickers, even the ones on the World Cup or Olympic stage. Still, Lloyd believes in herself.
“I know that I could actually probably do it. Put on the helmet, strap on the pads, go for it,” she told King. “The mind-set I have, I think with practice, I know I have to work on my steps and my technique, but I think I could do it and do it well. It could be a huge pivotal moment. There is no reason why a woman could not do this.
“And I actually invite the pressure. I love the pressure. When I have to nail something — shooting hoops, ax-throwing, kicking a field goal — that is the moment I live for and want. It comes down to the mind, training the mind. It’s worth having some conversations about it. With practice and someone showing me, I know I can do it. I have one of the most accurate shots in our game. Big thing would be getting used to the big boys out there. But nothing scares me. You hold yourself back if you’re afraid. What’s the worst that can happen? I don’t make the team? Let’s just say I did try. Maybe I change the landscape a lot.”
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