Recent Bucs Rookie Breaks Silence on Navy’s Decision on Active Duty

Cameron Kinley

Getty Buccaneers rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley had leave the team due to Naval service.

Recent Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley accepts not knowing why his childhood dream is on hold after the U.S. Navy denied his appeal to delay active duty.

“I’m speechless,” Kinley said on the Dan Patrick Show via Pro Football Talk. “I felt like I had a piece of me taken away.”

Kinley starred at Navy on the football field and excelled off the field as 2021 class president before signing with the Bucs and competing at the rookie minicamp in May. The Navy recently called Kinley to complete his service commitment as required of academy graduates. He asked the Navy to delay his commission but received a denial and therefore couldn’t participate in this week’s minicamp.

“I was given no explanation and I was told that there is no appeal process,” Kinley told Patrick via Pro Football Talk.

“That’s kind of the business that we’re in in the military. I’m not owed an explanation,” Kinley added. “The acting secretary of the Navy, it was up to his discretion.”

Captain Jereal Dorsey, a spokesman for acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker, released a statement to ESPN about the matter. Harker “declined to forward requests from recent Naval Academy graduates to the Secretary of Defense, seeking to delay their commissions” according to Dorsey’s statement.

“Every Midshipman attends on the same terms and each has the same responsibility to serve,” Dorsey wrote. “Exceptions to that commitment to serve have been rightfully rare.”

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Service Academy Grads Recently Allowed to Play First

Other NFL players who graduated from military academies since 2019 have been able to delay service to play. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo to allow it in 2019 at the request of former President Donald Trump according to the Associated Press via ESPN, which reversed a 2017 decision.

Besides Kinley, former Army linebacker John Rhattigan also joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent this spring. Rhattigan, who is competing for a spot with the Seattle Seahawks, has been able to participate at the Army’s permission per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Kinley likewise had the Navy’s consent to compete in the Bucs rookie minicamp per ESPN. He made some noise while there, too, when he picked off a pass from rookie quarterback Kyle Trask.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said he liked what he saw in the former Navy team captain and welcomes him back if he can return.

“He’s obviously very important to the Navy … I would love to have him. I thought he showed promise,” Arians said per ABC Action News’ Kyle Burger.

Dream on Hold But Ready to Serve

Kinley, a Memphis native, sent a letter to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, in hopes to reverse the Navy’s decision according to ESPN. Active duty for a Naval Academy graduate lasts five years.

Kinley told Patrick that he wanted to play in the NFL since childhood but also confirmed his desire to serve the U.S.

“The common misconception is that I don’t want to serve and that’s never been the case,” Kinley added. “I just felt like I had the opportunity to do both and I don’t see why I’m not able to.”

“I just want to get my story out there because I feel like it needs to be heard.”

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