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Carli Lloyd ‘not afraid’ to kick in the NFL: ‘There has got to be a first for everything’

Baltimore's Sam Koch holds the ball for Carli Lloyd as she attempts to kick a field goal after the Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles held a joint practice August 20. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)
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PHILADELPHIA — On Wednesday, Carli Lloyd, the famous soccer player, arrived at Lincoln Financial Field, the noted NFL venue.

The occasion was a U.S. women’s national team practice as part of the World Cup victory tour, which will continue Thursday against Portugal.

The champions have played in large football stadiums before, but given recent events, when the 37-year-old Lloyd stroked a 55-yard field goal through the uprights and subsequently talked about giving the NFL a try, the Eagles’ lair seemed like a timely backdrop for the U.S. team’s visit.

At the moment, Lloyd said she is focused on international matches and the final stretch of the National Women’s Soccer League season with New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC.

But after proving she can thump an oblong ball as far as a round one — and after watching video clips of her Aug. 20 performance at a joint practice of the Eagles and Baltimore Ravens volley around social media — Lloyd said she is giving serious thought to a possible career change.

“It has gone from just having fun kicking to, ‘Will she play in the NFL?’ ” Lloyd said. “At first, I was just laughing about it a little bit. But the more I spoke with my husband — he is all for it — and my friends and family, they are really encouraging me to potentially take up this opportunity.”

Whether there is a formal opportunity remains to be seen. Unnamed NFL teams have reportedly reached out, but with rosters being finalized ahead of next week’s openers and Lloyd’s football inexperience, it’s probably not in her immediate future.

Carli Lloyd says she's ready for the NFL. Is the NFL ready for her?

However, she said with her eyes widening, “There has got to be a first for everything, right?”

Women have played college football and arena football but never in the NFL.

Besides a hefty foot, Lloyd carries brawny confidence.

“I am not afraid to step up in front of the whole world and actually do it,” she said. “I have always been like that, from a little girl. I’ve never cared about going up against boys.”

On the surface, it seems preposterous, regardless of gender: making an NFL team at that age with no NCAA football or pro football experience.

Furthermore, the 5-foot-8, slender forward has never taken a hit on a kickoff or needed to make an open-field (football) tackle.

“Yeah, 300 pounds coming at me, I’d probably try to give my best shot,” she said, smiling. “I don’t know, I might be in the hospital after that.”

Place kickers with pro soccer backgrounds have made it to the NFL, including Austria’s Toni Fritsch (1971-82) and Ireland’s Neil O’Donoghue (1977-85). Josh Lambo, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ place kicker, was an MLS goalkeeper for four years before joining the Texas A&M football team and making the NFL four years ago.

Annapolis’s Devin Barclay played five MLS seasons, then became Ohio State’s place kicker in 2007-10.

Hall of Fame goalkeeper Tony Meola tried out with the New York Jets after the 1994 World Cup and served on the practice squad for a few weeks.

“My recommendation would be don’t do it unless you are really serious about doing it,” Meola said. “Don’t do it for a PR stunt because it’s a PR stunt that could get you killed.”

The ability to kick the ball is only part of the challenge.

“That is the easy point. They’ll know if Carli Lloyd can kick a field goal or not,” said Meola, 50, who co-hosts “Counter Attack,” a SiriusXM soccer show. “I did not receive a very good reception from players around the league. Kickers aren’t very well liked, and now you are coming from another sport and you are trying to take someone’s job.

“If she tries to do it, I will be her biggest fan. But it’s no joke, that’s for sure.”

Lloyd said she is “not naive” to the challenges of playing in a violent sport inhabited by large men.

But from a mental standpoint, she said she believes she is prepared.

“You need to have thick skin — mentally tough, mentally strong,” said Lloyd, who, in a 14-year national team career, has won two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals while appearing in 282 matches and scoring 114 goals. “I invite pressure. I love pressure. I’ve got all of that ticked off. Now it’s just a matter of knowing I can do it and go from there.”

That means working with her longtime trainer, James Galanis, to fine-tune her approach and method.

“I want to get out there and take a two-step kick to make sure I can actually do it,” she said. “If I can actually do that from a pretty good distance, I would feel a lot more comfortable. Obviously, pads, helmets, I maybe need a couple 300-pound men to rush at me.”

As for the mechanics of kicking a football as opposed to a soccer ball, she said, “I can bomb a pretty significant long ball. It’s got nothing to do with leg strength. Everyone thinks, ‘Aw, you need a big, strong leg to kick a ball.’ No. It’s all technique.”

After Lloyd’s exploits at the Eagles-Ravens practice, Randy Brown, the Ravens’ assistant special teams coach, sent her a screenshot comparing her form with Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker’s.

“It’s pretty spot-on,” Lloyd said, noting the leg motion and arm width. “The only thing that’s different is the ball is shaped a little bit differently ... and obviously kicking in a game is a lot different.”

Reflecting on his experience 25 years ago, Meola said: “You can miskick a soccer ball and still hit it 60 yards. The sweet spot on a football is the size of a nickel.”

U.S. Coach Jill Ellis did not hesitate in supporting Lloyd’s possible NFL pursuit.

“I think 100 percent she could do it — do it technically and do it mentally," she said. "Obviously stepping onto that field with all those big guys and all, [but] she has the steel internally and the range in her leg.”

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