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Former Navy football player Cameron Kinley released by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Cameron Kinley. (U.S. Naval Academy, YouTube screenshot)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released former Navy football player Cameron Kinley, who received special permission from the Department of Defense to pursue an NFL career.

Kinley was placed on waivers less than 24 hours after playing in Tampa Bay’s exhibition opener versus the Cincinnati Bengals. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound cornerback recorded six tackles, including five solo, in the game. However, the rookie was also penalized for lowering his head to initiate contact.

Making the Buccaneers roster as an undrafted free agent was a longshot considering the defending Super Bowl champions returned all 11 starters on the defensive side of the ball and have quality depth at each position.

Contact by The Capital on Monday morning, Kinley expressed gratitude for being allowed to attend training camp and called it a “valuable experience.”

“It’s tough, for sure. However, I’m staying hopeful that another door opens soon,” Kinley said.

Kinley will go through the waivers process with the hope of being claimed by another NFL organization. If unclaimed, he will become a free agent and agent Ryan Williams-Jenkins, a former Navy football player with Divine Entertainment, will see if there is interest elsewhere.

Last year, several service academy graduates granted permission to pursue the NFL were given until the first week of the regular season to try to secure a roster spot. If not on an NFL roster by mid-September, Kinley would likely recommission and begin serving as a Naval intelligence officer.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone in the Navy yet, but I think that’s how things will go,” said Kinley, who was returning to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee on Monday morning.

Kinley signed with Tampa Bay a couple days after the NFL Draft and attended a minicamp for rookies and free agents. However, just days before Naval Academy graduation he was informed the Secretary of the Navy declined to forward his request to pursue professional football to the Secretary of Defense.

Kinley was commissioned an officer during graduation and was set to serve on temporary assignment duty at the academy until October when he was scheduled to report to the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Center in Dam Neck, Virginia.

Having initially being told there was no avenue for appeal, Kinley learned there was a process for reviewing the decision made by acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker. It turns out Kinley had a right to submit a petition to the Board of Correction of Naval Records on the grounds Harker’s refusal to forward his request to delay commissioning to pursue pro sports was an “error of justice.”

After reviewing the petition, the Board of Correction of Naval Records made a recommendation, which Harker endorsed and forwarded to the Secretary of Defense.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin then rescinded Kinley’s commission, granted his request to delay commissioning and transferred the 2021 Naval Academy graduate to the Individual Ready Reserve with an enlisted status.

Kinley is currently enlisted in the Individual Ready Reserve for up to a period of eight years at a grade no higher than E-4, in accordance with Department of Defense instruction. Per Austin’s order, if Kinley does not make the NFL, he will be recommissioned and begin serving a Naval intelligence officer.

“Upon completion of his playing time, we look forward to welcoming [Kinley] back inside the ranks as a naval officer,” Austin said on July 6.

Kinley missed all of Tampa Bay’s organized team activities and a mandatory minicamp. He rejoined the Buccaneers in time for training camp, which began on July 25. While his time with the organization only lasted three weeks, Kinley enjoyed defending passes from future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and former Pro Bowl wide receiver Anthony Brown.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity I had with the organization,” Kinley told The Capital. “I was able to learn a lot from watching guys like Tom Brady and Anthony Brown, just how they come to work hard every day and go about their business. I also received great instruction from the coaches and take away a lot of life lessons.

“I wish the Buccaneers the best this season and I look forward to what God has next for me,” Kinley added.

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