Secretary of Defense, Navy allowing CB Cameron Kinley to play for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley has been granted his request to play in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced Tuesday.

Austin announced in a statement that he approved a plan by the Department of the Navy to enlist Kinley in the Inactive Ready Reserve "for the duration of his football career." The news comes after Kinley's request to delay his Navy commission to play in the NFL had initially been denied.

"Upon completion of his playing time, we look forward to welcoming him back inside the ranks as a naval officer," Austin said in the statement. "In the meantime, we know Cameron will take every opportunity on and off the field to ably represent the Navy and the military to the American people and to assist us in our recruiting efforts. I applaud Navy leadership for finding this way to showcase both Cameron's athletic prowess, as well as the quality and professionalism of our student athletes and our personnel."

Kinley had released a statement earlier Tuesday that Austin had informed him he would be allowed to attend training camp with the Buccaneers.

"I am extremely appreciative of Secretary Austin's decision and I am excited to represent our fine military in the National Football League," Kinley said in a statement Tuesday. "This past month has been very challenging and I am thankful for everyone who has supported me in any way."

Kinley thanked the NFL Players Association, the NFL league office and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., among others in his statement.

Rubio had written a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to assist Kinley in delaying his commission with the Navy so he could attend training camp with the Buccaneers.

"I am confident that Cameron will represent the Navy well in the NFL, just as he did as a standout athlete and class president at the Naval Academy," President Biden said in a statement Tuesday. "After his NFL career is over, he will continue to make us proud as an officer in the United States Navy."

Kinley was not given an explanation why Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas W. Harker declined to send Kinley's deferment package to the secretary of defense and was told he could not appeal the decision.

After the Navy's decision, Kinley, who is from Memphis, wrote a letter to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., for her help in approaching the Navy to change its decision.

"I'm happy that he will have his opportunity to prove himself," former Navy running back Keenan Reynolds, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 and played two games with the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, told ESPN's Jenna Laine. "There is no better person to grant the exception to than Cam. He fits the bill through and through."

Kinley, a team captain at Navy and class president, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Buccaneers and participated in the team's rookie minicamp with the Navy's permission. At that minicamp he intercepted a pass thrown by Buccaneers quarterback Kyle Trask.

"I thought he showed promising signs when he was here," Bucs coach Bruce Arians said of Kinley.