Weston Steelhammer trying to make name with Eagles despite Air Force rules

Weston Steelhammer trying to make name with Eagles despite Air Force rules

A couple weeks ago, Weston Steelhammer thought his chances to land with an NFL team were pretty solid. 

He was a three-year starter at safety for Air Force, and even if he didn't hear his name called during the seven-round draft, there was a really good chance he was going to sign with a team as an undrafted free agent. 

Then he heard the news. 

The Air Force announced it would no longer allow its graduates to defer service to join pro sports teams. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Defense revised its policy to allow athletes, on a case-by-case basis, to defer service to turn pro. That policy hasn't changed, but the Air Force isn't allowing any of its cadets to defer. 

So unless something changes, Steelhammer will need to serve two years in the Air Force before entering ready reserve status, which would allow him to join a team. 

"Things didn't work out how we thought or how we hoped, but everything happens for a reason," Steelhammer said. "I'll just try to make the most of it." 

This weekend, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety is with the Eagles as one of 20 players on tryouts at the team's rookie camp. 

Steelhammer wasn't told privately about the policy change. Instead, he found out like everyone else; he read it in a newspaper story. And he isn't sure if there will be any kind of out. 

What have the last couple of weeks been like? 

"Taking it all in," he said. "It all came at once like a fire hose."

He'll graduate from the academy later this month and then has the summer off before he needs to report to a base in San Antonio. So, theoretically, Steelhammer could spend training camp with an NFL team. But what NFL team is going to use a roster spot on a player who isn't available for two years? 

Perhaps Steelhammer's being with the Eagles is because they wanted to look at a good player, but it's also possible it's a favor. Head coach Doug Pederson's oldest son Drew grew up with Steelhammer in Louisiana. The two played football together through middle school until Doug Pederson took a job with the Eagles under Andy Reid and moved the family north. 

"Like Coach P says, he's looking for football players and that's what I pride myself in," Steelhammer said. "I know I'm not the biggest, not the fastest one out there. I just love the game, love playing it and try to go from there."

It wasn't just Steelhammer who was affected by this ruling from the Air Force. His teammate Jalen Robinette, the all-time leading receiver at Air Force, would have likely been drafted had it not been for the policy change. 

Robinette, in the same predicament as Steelhammer, is in Buffalo this weekend for a tryout of his own. 

"It wasn't how we expected the weekend to go, but we both have a shot, him being in Buffalo this week and me being in Philadelphia this week," Steelhammer said. "Just trying to make a name for ourselves."

While Steelhammer tries to make a name for himself, the name he already has stands out in a crowd. He might never make an NFL roster, but he's already a first-teamer on the all-time name squad. 

But Steelhammer doesn't know much about his surname other than "it came from great, great, greats out in Germany."

The jokes come pretty easy with a name like Steelhammer. He even said Saturday Night Live used his name for a porn star play, which didn't please his parents much. 

Unfortunately for Steelhammer, it might be impossible for his name to stay on the back of an NFL jersey. While he has kept a positive attitude through what seems to be an impossible situation, there doesn't appear to be an out. 

And unless one arises, he's going to have to serve for two years before even getting another shot at the NFL. He plans on prioritizing his time and keeping his body in football shape. 

But will teams still be interested in two years? 

"I hope," Steelhammer said. "I'm gonna do what I can do and let everything else fall into place. Got a chance this week to catch an eye or two, so going to try to do my best."

Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Just two days after we learned the NFL’s plan to cut the 2020 preseason in half, the NFL Players Association is reportedly recommending that the league cancel the entire preseason. 

The NFLPA’s board of representatives voted unanimously on the recommendation, according to ESPN. 

On Wednesday, ProFootballTalk reported that the NFL was cutting the preseason in half because of the coronavirus pandemic, keeping Weeks 2 and 3 but eliminating Weeks 1 and 4. Other reports indicated that those preseason games would be pushed back later into August. 

If the Eagles end up playing the original Weeks 2 and 3 of their preseason schedule, they will face the Dolphins on the road and the Patriots at home. They were originally scheduled to be at Indianapolis in Week 1 and at home against the Jets in Week 4, but those games have already been canceled. 

The NFL is still planning for training camps to begin on July 28 with rookies and select vets allowed to report earlier. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said earlier this offseason that his team will need the entire five-to-six-week training camp to get ready for the 2020 season, especially after missing the entire spring workout schedule because of the pandemic. 

The Eagles are scheduled to begin their 2020 regular season in Washington on Sept. 13. 

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Redskins considering changing name amid rising pressure

Redskins considering changing name amid rising pressure

He said he would never do it.

"We'll never change the name of the team," Dan Snyder told USA Today in 2013. "It's that simple. Never. You can use caps."

Now, amid an increased national focus on racism and social justice and mounting pressure from million-dollar sponsors, his tune has suddenly changed.

The Redskins' owner said in a statement Friday that the franchise will review the team's name, seen by many as racist and offensive to Native Americans and others.

Protests against the Redskins' name and logo have been ongoing for decades, but when companies like FedEx and Nike join those protests, things can change very quickly.

Considering the growing pressure now on the franchise, it would be surprising at this point if the franchise elects not to change its name.

"In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team's name," the statement read. "This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has consistently supported Snyder's decision to keep the team name, released a statement saying only, "In the last few weeks we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step."

FedEx, which paid $205 million for the naming rights for the Redskins' stadium in 1998, asked the Redskins earlier Friday to change the team name. And Nike, the NFL's official uniform supplier, on Thursday removed all Redskins gear from its website while continuing to allow customers to order merchandise from all 31 other teams.

In the statement released by the team, Snyder said: "This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field."

First-year Redskins head coach Ron Rivera, a former Eagles assistant coach and one of three Latin American head coaches in NFL history, indicated in the statement that he favors a name change.

"This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military."

The team's current name dates back 87 years.

The NFL Boston Braves franchise was founded in 1932 and one year later moved to Fenway Park, which it shared with the baseball franchise of the same name. To avoid confusion, owner George Preston Marshall changed the name to Redskins. The franchise moved to Washington in 1937 and kept the name.

Marshall, who owned the franchise until his death in 1969, refused to allow black players on the roster until 1962, which made the team the last in the NFL to integrate. 

Not until U.S. attorney general Robert F. Kennedy threatened to rescind the team's lease at city-owned RFK Stadium did Marshall finally allow the team's roster to be integrated.

Last month, team officials removed Marshall's name from the Redskins Ring of Honor at FedEx Field, and a statue of Marshall was removed from RFK Stadium by city officials after it was vandalized.

Protests against sports teams and logos perpetuating stereotypes of Native Americans and their culture have grown more widespread in recent years but have been held for decades.

In 1991 — nearly 30 years ago — there were organized protests against the Atlanta Braves and Redskins over their team names and logos, according to an Associated Press story. The story quoted Clyde Bellecourt, director of a group called the American Indian Movement, which organized protests outside Braves and Redskins games.

"It's a racist term," Bellecourt told the AP in October of 1991. "We're not thin-skinned, this just makes a mockery of uses a people and of our culture."

And now, it looks like the franchise is finally going to do something about it.

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