FOXBORO -- Following the Patriots second (and final) minicamp practice coach Bill Belichick was asked about long-snapper Joe Cardona's availability to the team this season, and his response provided a little clarification on the subject.
Cardona was present for each of the OTA sessions that were open to the media as well as the last two days of practice during mandatory minicamp, but as a graduate of the Naval Academy, Cardona is required to serve five years in the Navy as an officer, and he will likely need to receive military clearance to pursue his NFL career full-time.
"He’s been here for pretty much everything that we’ve done," Belichick said. "Ultimately, that’s not really our decision. But the Navy has been very cooperative in terms of his responsibilities. But he’s in the Navy. He’s on duty. It’s not like he’s getting out of anything. He’s active. We’ve been able to work the schedules out, so we’ll see how it goes."
After graduating, Cardona was reportedly assigned to the Naval Academy Preparatory School, which has allowed him to practice with the Patriots over the last few weeks. Soon after being drafted by New England in the fifth round, Cardona told reporters that he hoped to be assigned to his old stomping grounds.
"One thing that I was going to try to do was go back to the Naval Academy Prep School, which is in Newport, RI," Cardona said back in May. "I went there for a year and kind of fell in love with the New England area, and hopefully I can go up there and help out with our football program for a little bit up there. After that, like I said, my orders haven’t been official yet, haven’t come in yet, so just waiting on that as well."
Cardona, the only long-snapper on the Patriots roster, was the final fifth-round pick from this year's draft class to sign an NFL deal. The deal was announced on June 4.
The Patriots have been through this uncertainty before, where a player of theirs owes a commitment to the Navy. Most recently it was fullback Eric Kettani, who was signed by the Patriots in 2009 and placed on the Military/Reserve list. In 2011, Kettani was signed to the team's practice squad but was recalled by the Navy to serve. He was later allowed to pursue his football career again and has played on practice squads for the Redskins, Chiefs and Jaguars.
After choosing Cardona with the No. 166 overall pick, Belichick was asked how to reconcile the selection of Cardona as what he called a "need pick" with the fact that Cardona may not be available to the team during the regular season.
Belichick explained that the team would cross that bridge when it got to it.
"Well, [if] the player got hurt . . . that’s football," he said at the time. "We’ll see how it goes. If he can’t play this year, then he plays next year. If he can’t play that year, then he’ll play the year after. He’s a good player. [We] felt like he was the best long snapper in the draft. So, we have his rights. Whenever he plays hopefully he’ll be able to contribute and play well. Whenever that is, we’ll see. I don’t know."