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Sunday, March 3, 2013
Lauren Silberman comes up short in NFL tryout

By Jane McManus

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Like her kickoff attempts, Lauren Silberman's attempt to gain consideration from NFL scouts fell well short Sunday.

Silberman aggravated a right quadriceps injury and was done for the day after just her second kickoff attempt during a tryout at a regional combine.

Her first kickoff attempt, from the 35-yard line, went 19 yards. Her second went just 13, and she soon was accompanied to the trainer's table.

"I just couldn't do it today," Silberman said. "I know I can do a lot more."

Silberman had one more kickoff and five field goal attempts remaining, and later lobbied NFL officials to let her try to complete the workout. After a long conversation, it was decided she would not continue because of the injury.

Fellow tryout participant Sonny Powell, like Silberman a soccer player looking to convert to football, stood with Silberman before they were slated to kick and said she mentioned she was favoring a leg.

"Talking to all the guys out here, I don't think the fact she was a girl had anything to do with it," Powell said. "We're all playing for a job here and everyone's nerves were going crazy."

Silberman, 28, was one of 37 kickers trying out at the Jets practice facility. There were easily as many reporters and television cameras on hand to chronicle her every move.

During two warmup periods, Silberman did not kick a single ball. She said she was holding off because of the injury.

When her turn came, it took her more than 20 seconds to set the ball on the tee for her first kick. Silberman then went through an unusual set up, taking eight or so steps backward, followed by four or five steps sideways, before running to the ball.

"The distance wasn't there but hopefully the scouts will notice my technique," Silberman said. "It's not always length."

After her day was finished, she was asked how far she has kicked a ball in practice.

"It's still hard to exactly say," Silberman said. "Just gotten better day by day and the distance is getting there."

Katie Hnida, who became the first woman to score points in a Division I-AA college game by kicking extra points for New Mexico, said she was glad to see the NFL set up a combine system that gives women the opportunity to compete.

"I give her a lot of credit for going out there with the guys," Hnida said. "I know it takes a lot of courage to do that. Still, at the same time, there is a part of me that's worried this would be seen as a publicity stunt."

No background

Silberman doesn't have the kind of athletic experience that usually precedes a tryout like this. Her background is in soccer, specifically club soccer at the University of Wisconsin. She has never played football.

Still, she paid the $275 fee to register and NFL director of regional combines Stephen Austin said applicants weren't assessed before any of the 10 regional combines.

"We don't have time for that," Austin said.

The NFL allows anyone to register for the combines, and in the three years since they began, players have made it to the NFL, like St. Louis Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein. The only combine stipulations, provided spots are available, are that applicants meet the application deadline and are eligible for NFL draft. If any questions arise about a player, the NFL would contact the player directly, according to NFL spokesperson Rob McBurnett.

The NFL promoted Silberman's tryout, and she appeared on a few television programs leading up to the event.

The next woman who tries out may have one advantage: She won't have to deal with being the first, at least to register. The good thing for an experienced kicker like Hnida, who still kicks, is that age isn't as critical to kickers as it is to other positions. Would Hnida consider a combine?

"Yes," said Hnida, 31. "To try out, for me, I would have to be in the best shape of my life because I want to be out there to compete."

And there is still a milestone to be had. While Silberman started the tryout, she did not complete it.

"I might be the first woman trying out for the NFL," Silberman said. "But I certainly hope I'm not the last."