Just How Big Of A Deal Is Jen Welter's NFL Coaching Internship?

Connie Carberg was visiting with her old friend, former New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, when she heard the Arizona Cardinals had brought in Jen Welter as an assistant to the inside linebackers coach for training camp.

They looked at each other. "Who is she?"

Carberg, who was the first woman to be an NFL scout and the first NFL scout to be demoted for being a woman, quickly did her research. There, in the presence of the best player she ever brought to the Jets, back in 1983, she discovered Welter was a top women's tackle player and an assistant coach for the arena football team the Texas Revolution, where she had previously been a player on special teams. It's a resume Carberg appreciates.

"Forty years ago, there was no flag football, no tackle football for women," Carberg said. "That's where you can actually see and play the sport and learn football from that vantage. She knows what it feels like to get hit."

That's from a woman who was more than qualified for her job, but who was given it before the world was ready to accept her.

A milestone like Welter's isn't something to take lightly. Vice President Joe Biden tweeted his congratulations to Welter, and this celebratory tweet from from Hillary Clinton's verified account starts with a Welter quote:

Of course, the parallels to San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon -- who coached her team to an NBA summer league title earlier this month -- are apparent. But Welter's internship can be compared to a wild card at a Grand Slam tennis tournament. Teams can use these internships to check out former players and see if they have any coaching chops without having to commit much time or money. There's little investment required, and the positions don't generally turn into a full-time gig with the team. Generally.

"The internship will turn into a full-time job," said Nancy Lieberman, a barrier-breaker herself, having played and coached in men's leagues, most recently as a Sacramento Kings summer league assistant on George Karl's staff. Lieberman, who met Welter at a UFC fight last year, said she thinks Welter has the background and the mettle to make it.

"She's very accomplished and confident," Lieberman said. "She doesn't have any fear. It's like me and Becky -- it's new to other people, but it's who we are and what we do. When you look at her credentials and all she's done, this isn't her first rodeo."

An NFL training camp is a completely different animal from a regular-season practice. It's intentionally designed to be a pressure cooker so that teams can see which young players and free agents measure up. It gets heated, there are fights, and often a veteran player will test a young coach. Although much has changed since Carberg's era, this culture has remained the same.

"Football is still football, men are still men, and that's the way this game is," she said.

One current NFL lineman expects the Cardinals will be respectful and attentive to their new assistant. Still, having a woman on the staff will be different -- but it's something a team can adjust to.

"Where I would see an issue, though, is if she were to yell or put a player in their place, so to speak," the player said. "I feel that is where players would get combative. We as players have worked with females our entire careers, but it was always in a 'friendly' type of relationship. Taking on a coaching role is an entirely different relationship completely.

"Especially being on the defensive side when the entire defensive mentality, typically, is about being mean and nasty. At that point, she has to be tough enough to hear what the players have to say to her and the players have to be mentally tough enough to be coached by a female."

Those who know Welter think that when it comes to embracing the culture, she's got it covered. But not every woman who breaks a barrier like this excels. Football nerds might remember Lauren Silberman, who became the first woman to try out for an NFL team at the 2013 regional combine. She was a kicker, but when it came time for her moment she muffed the ball -- and muffed it so badly that "Good Morning America" ran a segment called "A step back for all women?"

Welter doesn't need to be on the regular-season coaching roster to make the most of this opportunity. She might use it as a springboard to a job with another team in the NFL or a college, or a team might tap her to work in some other football capacity off the field. But the door has opened in Arizona. It's just a little hard to tell yet whether this groundbreaking moment will become a historical footnote.

"When you have a boss pulling in the same direction as you and making sure everything is professional," Lieberman said, "she's going to be fine."