She became the first woman to try out at a regional combine Sunday, but she lasted all of two kicks _ none of which traveled even 20 yards. The 28-year-old Silberman hurt her right quadriceps while preparing for the tryout earlier in the week, and attributed her struggles to that injury.
“I tried staying off it and waited for today,” she said. “I didn’t even take kicks in warm-ups, and, it’s pretty hard to know that you’ll be in pain, and I wanted to work through it and I certainly tried to, but I just couldn’t do it today.”
While some fans on Twitter praised her for breaking through in a male-dominated sport, others wondered if this was just a publicity stunt. Regardless, the NFL got plenty of attention on a Sunday in March for one of its regional combines _ something most media normally ignore.
With the 36 other kickers _ all male _ a handful of scouts and more than two dozen media watching in complete silence at the New York Jets’ practice facility, Silberman winced as she attempted her first kickoff and the ball traveled only 19 yards.
She grabbed at her right leg, and then struggled for about 20 seconds to place the football on the tee before measuring her steps and trying a second kick.
It went about 13 yards.
She then asked to see a trainer and left the practice field, and appeared to be favoring her right leg.
“They certainly didn’t go as far as they were in practices,” Silberman said, “but I tried to work through the pain.”
She wouldn’t reveal how long her kicks were in the weeks leading up to the tryout.
“It’s still hard to exactly say, but I just got better day by day,” she said with a smile. “The distance is getting there.”
Silberman is a former club soccer player at Wisconsin and ex-graduate student at MIT. While she never kicked a football in a competitive game, the NFL said Silberman qualified for the regional combine because of her athletic background.
“Our job is to evaluate talent and not leave any stone unturned,” said Stephen Austin, the NFL’s director of regional combines. “We want young, athletic people who have played a sport, typically in college or military or small schools.”
The regional combines began in 2011, and include players who weren’t among the 333 invited to the main combine in Indianapolis. The NFL is holding these sessions in 10 cities this offseason, with the most impressive players advancing to a super-regional in Dallas in April.