Car­dona will take a stand

Pa­tri­ots long snap­per will re­main at at­ten­tion for an­them

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By BREN­DAN McGAIR bm­c­gair@paw­tuck­et­

FOXBORO – It shouldn’t come as a shock that Pa­tri­ots long snap­per Joe Car­dona proudly stands by what his fel­low service academy alum did last Sun­day in Chicago.

Car­dona is a Navy prod­uct while Ale­jan­dro Vil­lanueva, the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers of­fen­sive tackle who sep­a­rated him­self from his team­mates by stand­ing in the tun­nel by his lone­some as the na­tional an­them played, at­tended U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy and has served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

In the wake of po­lar­iz­ing com­ments made by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump about NFL play­ers us­ing the “Star Span­gled Ban­ner” as a plat­form to stage protests, Vil­lanueva chose to honor his coun­try rather than re­spect the wishes of his head coach. Car­dona found noth­ing wrong with

It’s na­tional and means some­thing to a lot of Amer­i­cans. At the same time, our friends need to have their voices heard.”

– Joe Car­dona

what Vil­lanueva did as far as break­ing rank from the Steel­ers.

“I have a tremen­dous amount of re­spect for him as a per­son and a player,” Car­dona said in a 1-on-1 interview in­side the New Eng­land on Thurs­day. “I think any­body who does what they feel is right has that right in Amer­ica. That’s the beauty of this coun­try.”

“My only wish is that we took the po­lit­i­cal­iza­tion out of the na­tional an­them. It’s not some­thing that’s po­lit­i­cal. It’s na­tional and means some­thing to a lot of Amer­i­cans,” added the third-year Pa­triot. “At the same time, our friends need to have their voices heard.”

The tur­moil sur­round­ing the sport could reach crit­i­cal mass and Car­dona would still pause, put his hand over his heart, and lis­ten as the na­tional an­them echoed through­out the sta­dium.

“It’s their choice, but it’s plain and sim­ple for me. I’m a service mem­ber so I stand in the po­si­tion of at­ten­tion and will con­tinue to do so just like I al­ways have each and every game I’ve ever played in,” Car­dona said. “That’s al­ways a spe­cial mo­ment for me and a spe­cial mo­ment for a lot of peo­ple, but it’s good to be get­ting back to foot­ball and fo­cus­ing on Sun­day’s game.”

The 25-year-old Car­dona is still an ac­tive mem­ber of the mil­i­tary. Dur­ing train­ing camp, he had the honor of swear­ing in two Navy vet­er­ans who were re-en­list­ing. The cer­e­mony oc­curred af­ter a joint prac­tice be­tween the Pa­tri­ots and the Jack­sonville Jaguars and was wit­nessed by play­ers and coaches from both sides.

“That was a huge mo­ment. Swear­ing in any service mem­ber is a great mo­ment. As spe­cial as it was for me, it’s re­ally about the mem­bers I was swear­ing in and give them that ex­pe­ri­ence,” Car­dona said. “To see the ad­mi­ra­tion from my team­mates and the Jaguars dur­ing that time, that was a great thing for them to see that their ser­vices are ap­pre­ci­ated very much by mem­bers of the NFL.

“Any time some­one asks you to swear them in or re-en­list them, you’re tak­ing part in their story that they’re go­ing to re­mem­ber for the rest of their lives,” Car­dona delved fur­ther. “Per­son­ally, it’s some­thing I take a lot of pride in.”

Re­ports this week in­di­cate that the Pa­tri­ots plan to stand for the na­tional an­them prior to Sun­day’s home game against the Carolina Pan­thers. Many stood and in­ter­locked their arms dur­ing the an­them last Sun­day be­fore the game against the Hous­ton Tex­ans, while a large por­tion took a knee.

On a pro­fes­sional level, Car­dona is fo­cus­ing on his job of pro­vid­ing Pa­tri­ots place kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter Ryan Allen with good snaps.

The tu­mult that’s hov­ered over the NFL in the last week has cre­ated sto­ry­lines that have ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with the ac­tion on the field. As the valu­able spe­cial teams con­trib­u­tor noted, the Pa­tri­ots per usual have run dam­age con­trol when­ever the out­side noise gets just a lit­tle too loud.

“We’re fo­cus­ing on foot­ball here. Ul­ti­mately, it is what it was,” Car­dona said. “We’re go­ing to move on as a team and to­gether to­wards play­ing Carolina and get­ting back to play­ing foot­ball.”

File photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat / lmzart­

Pa­tri­ots long snap­per and Navy grad­u­ate Joe Car­dona said he un­der­stands why play­ers are protest­ing, but he said he will al­ways stand at at­ten­tion for the na­tional an­them.

File photo by Louri­ann Mardo-Zayat / lmzart­

Joe Car­dona (49) praised Steel­ers of­fen­sive line­man and Army grad­u­ate Ale­jan­dro Vil­lanueva for stand­ing for the an­them last week while the rest of his team­mates were in the locker room.

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