KEN PARRISH'S fellow Stroud Area Regional Police officers agreed, and eventually, so did his parents: Ken had the right to remain hopeful, to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL. Leaving that Monroe County, Pa., police force - where his father was a captain - just as Ken's career was getting started could not be used against him in the court of peer or family opinion.
They didn't write any of that on a laminated Miranda card for Parrish to carry around, but he knew he had their blessing, even before the Eagles signed him and brought him to the camp for rookies and select veterans where he yesterday replaced rookie free-agent punter and kicker Sam Swank.
"It was a decision that took weeks and weeks and weeks and lots of discussions with my family,'' said Parrish, a former East Stroudsburg punter who saw action in three preseason games with San Francisco in 2007. In 2008 he had worked out for the Patriots and the Eagles but got no camp invites. He enrolled in the police academy, and was just ending his probationary period when he started thinking about giving football another shot.
"I always had great backing from my family; my father helped me out a lot, and my mom," he said. "They [said], 'Ken, if you feel this is something you need to go out and conquer, then go ahead and do it.' "
Parrish allowed that his father "had a lot of mixed emotions about it at first,'' but "when he heard I had the potential to get back in it, he was nothing but supportive. That's what made it so much easier to make that decision."
His fellow officers "are like my big brothers," Parrish said. He said they didn't take his change of heart as any sort of disrespect.
William Parrish remembers it all a little differently, with a few more twists.
"When he took the police job, he took it 100 percent . . . [at that point], the door is closed, but it's not locked," the elder Parrish said yesterday from his office in East Stroudsburg, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia.
Then trainer Paul Assad, who had worked with Ken Parrish, called his ex-pupil and urged him to get back to full-time football training. Parrish had been a soccer striker until his senior year in high school, had started playing football only when two of his high school's punters went down with injuries. Though he had played 4 years of college football, it was hard to say he had definitely developed and refined his game as far as he could.
"[Assad] was like, 'You need to make a decision. I'm going to tell you right now, if you want another shot at this, it's going to take your full dedication. It's not something you can do as a cop during the day, and train at night . . . this is a no-joke league,' " the younger Parrish recalled.
In the wake of that conversation, Ken went to his father.
"The one thing that bothered him the most is that he said, 'Here I am a police officer, which is a dream of a lot of other people. Am I being greedy? Am I reaching for something too far - should I just take this and be happy with it?' " William Parrish said.
Parrish understood that his son didn't want to be watching football on TV in 20 years and wondering what might have happened had he given it just one more try. But he also knew that Ken's mom, Kathy, a school nurse, was planning a gathering the night of Jan. 14, when Ken would officially be sworn in at a police commission meeting.
"It was a big pill to swallow," William Parrish recalled. "Basically, he was giving up a career, or at least, this one, at this moment. He still has a college education, he's only 24, he can still come back to it, but he's actually established, and is this worth it? . . . His mom was less than thrilled. She was very upset with it. It was very stressful for a couple of weeks."
William Parrish told his son he had to make a final decision before Jan. 14, that he wasn't going to get sworn in just to quit the next day or the next week.
"[The police commission members] all knew what he was going for, they understood, they didn't hold it against him," Parrish said. "But it was rather quick."
On Jan. 9, when Ken decided he definitely was going out to California to train again with Assad, it fell to Kathy Parrish to call friends and family and tell them the swearing-in gathering was off.
"Once he did it, both of us [parents] were 100 percent in it, and have been ever since," William Parrish said. "You can't hold her down right now, either; neither one of us' feet is touching the floor right now."
Ken Parrish felt he was doing the right thing as soon as he started training full time again; he felt he punted well at a showcase event Assad put together in Las Vegas. Back home in Monroe County, the fact that teams weren't calling was creating some parental stress. William Parrish knew that teams traditionally fill up their rosters with undrafted and street free agents right after the draft, which was held last month.
"The longer it went after that time period, the deeper the hole in my stomach got," he said.
His stomach felt a lot better yesterday, after Ken was signed by the team William Parrish had always rooted for, and that Ken grew up following. Of course, making that team remains a long way off - incumbent punter Sav Rocca improved dramatically last season, even if that improvement shriveled when the weather got cold - but once you're back in the NFL mix, with a good chance of appearing in preseason games, at least, your chances of eventually making it somewhere improve quite a bit.
If Parrish actually got a chance to punt for the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field?
"I'd have to tape my feet to the ground," he said.
The Eagles confirmed a worst-case scenario for veteran free-agent defensive tackle Amon Gordon, who limped away from a drill last week: Achilles' tendon surgery. The Eagles brought in free-agent rookie Trevor Jenkins to take Gordon's place . . . Rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram watched team activities from the sideline yesterday, wearing an elastic bandage on his left knee. Ingram, recovering from left ACL surgery, banged the knee against safety Rashad Baker during Wednesday's workout. *
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