Back in March, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, in the wake of Sarah Thomas being named the first full-time female referee in the NFL, was asked when female coaches would become a reality in the league. His response: “The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired.”
Three months later, the Cardinals are giving a female coach the chance to prove that point. Jen Welter, a coach from the Indoor Football League with a PhD in psychology and a master’s degree in sports psychology, has been brought on as a preseason coaching intern concentrating on inside linebackers.
Welter is a former college rugby player who is also a veteran of 14 years in pro football, primarily in the Women’s Football Alliance. It’s already apparent that players appreciate her bona fides in the game.
AFC player in text to me on Jen Welter: ""The truth is, she has more playing experience than some of the coaches who coach me now."
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) July 28, 2015
While it’s fair to point out that the Cardinals haven’t actually hired Welter, even giving her a temporary intern position amounts to progress and hopefully will mean more opportunities in the future.
Naturally, Arians has already had to deflect the usual questions thrown out any time someone who isn’t a straight white male experiences a first in the NFL.
Arians added he had talked to the veterans on the Cardinals to tell them what he was going to do and “they were all very cool with it.”
“It’s not going to be a distraction in any way,” Arians said.
Along with Welter, the Cardinals have brought on former Steelers and Eagles linebacker Levon Kirkland to work with the team’s outside linebackers during the preseason as part of the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship, a program to help recently retired players get coaching experience.
— Dr. Jen Welter (@jwelter47) July 28, 2015