Cards hire Jen Welter as first female assistant coach

The Arizona Cardinals made history Monday, announcing the hiring of Jen Welter of the Indoor Football League as the NFL's first woman to hold a coaching position.

A former collegiate rugby player who played 14 seasons of pro football -- mostly in the Women's Football Alliance -- Welter was brought in by Bruce Arians as a training camp/preseason intern coaching inside linebackers.

"Coaching is nothing more than teaching," Arians explained Monday, via the team's official website. "One thing I have learned from players is, 'How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, man, I'll listen.' I really believe she'll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her."

Welter played running back and special teams for the Indoor Football League's Texas Revolution in February of 2014, becoming the first female to play a non-kicking position in a men's professional football league.

In a text exchange with Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, one AFC player acknowledged, "The truth is, she has more playing experience than some of the coaches who coach me now."

Welter went on to work under Revolution general manager and 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Tim Brown, becoming the first female to coach in a men's pro football league.

It's no surprise that Arians is the first head coach to grant Welter the opportunity to break the NFL's gender barrier.

While most professional football coaches learn a conservative approach, steering clear of controversial statements or maneuvers, Arians blazed his own unique path, finding success later in life.

"That's the way everyone's brought up in this business -- to be guarded, especially if it's not your last job," Arians told NFL Media columnist Michael Silver last year. "I don't have to (be guarded) anymore."

Arians hinted at the possibility of a female coach in April.

"The minute they can prove they can make a player better," Arians said at the NFL owners meetings, "they'll be hired."

He put that statement into practice on Monday, embracing the hot-button issue of women coaching men.

Just a year after being hired as the first full-time female coach in the history of major men's American sport, San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon led the team's Las Vegas Summer League squad to the 2015 title in mid-July.

If Hammon's hiring was initially viewed as a gimmick, that's no longer the case. Her immediate success has NBA insiders and observers wondering when she will be make history as the league's first female head coach.

"Since 2000, changes have been pretty damn rapid in a lot of ways," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich recently opined. "And I think people are fed up with injustice and with people not respecting other people's space and who they are. I think it's a step in the right direction."

*The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses what coaches are on the hot seat heading into 2015. *

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