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Cardinals Hire Jen Welter, Possibly NFL's First Female Coach


Let's talk about an important moment for the National Football League. Late last night, the Arizona Cardinals announced they're signing a female coach. This a first in the league. Her name Jen Welter, and she'll be a preseason intern coach working with inside linebackers on the team. On the line from Phoenix is Kent Somers. He's the Arizona Cardinals beat writer for The Arizona Republic newspaper. Kent, good morning.

KENT SOMERS: Good morning.

GREENE: So tell us about Jen Welter.

SOMERS: I know she played football for her 14th season. She has a master's degree in sports psychology. She has her doctorate in psychology. She's going to be with the team through training camp, through the four preseason games. And Coach Bruce Arians hopes this opens some doors for her to be an assistant coach at some level in men's football.

GREENE: You said she played football for 14 years. Where was she playing?

SOMERS: Various places. It looks like the latest - it was actually an indoor men's league in Texas, and then she became a coach this past year in the spring. Bruce Arians at the NFL owners' meetings in Phoenix was asked about, you know, Sarah Thomas, who's going the first female official in the league. And someone asked him about, you know, do you think it's possible that a woman could be a football coach? And he said yeah, it's just a matter of time. All they've got to do is, like the rest of us, convince players that they can help them improve - that they know what they're talking about, and they can become better. And this is really the first step in Bruce Arians, you know, making that promise come true.

GREENE: Do you see players needing to be convinced? I mean, have you gotten any reaction from the players so far to this news?

SOMERS: Not really. It's been so new. Just via Twitter, you know, a few of the Cardinals have said, you know, welcome. This is great. Bruce Arians said today to a couple of us that - hey, look, she's one of seven coaching interns. It's nothing more than that, but she deserves a chance. She's paid her dues. She came out to visit the team during their off-season practices and summer practices. And me met with her and was really impressed with her knowledge and commitment to the sport. And he went to some of the veteran players on the team and, you know, kind of gauged how they felt. There were very positive in saying, oh, yeah, we would be totally open to this. This is fine with us. So he made the hire.

GREENE: And she's an intern coach just for the preseason. She'll be working with linebackers. You describe this as a short tenure for her - she won't be, you know, coaching full-time during the season - but meaningful. What do you mean by that?

SOMERS: I think it's meaningful, obviously, to the point that from what everybody can determine in their research, she's the first female coach at any level in professional football. So obviously that's meaningful. And she's paid her dues, and, you know, her educational background is impressive, as is her playing background and her coaching background.

And, you know - and that's what this internships are for - you know, people to step in as kind of a stepping stone into a coaching career. And Bruce Arians is the Cardinals coach - is a different kind of thinker. He isn't hesitant at all to take some chances. And, you know, I think he really thinks that women could be effective and very good football coaches, and this is the first step in that direction.

GREENE: All right. Talking about the news from the Arizona - the Arizona Cardinals - a first in the NFL - they've hired a female coach. She'll be an intern coach for the preseason. We were talking about it with report Kent Somers, who covers the Cardinals for The Arizona Republic. Kent, thanks a lot.

SOMERS: You're welcome. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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