NFL

The NFL Suspending Terrelle Pryor is Inconsistent and Capricious

The NFL finally announced that former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor would be eligible for the supplemental draft that takes place Monday. However, he will be suspended and not be allowed to play for a team for the first five games after he signed. That suspension length happens to correspond with the original suspension to which Terrelle Pryor was levied at Ohio State.

From the NFL’s memo to teams:

… Pryor made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft. Those actions included failing to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring an agent in violation of NCAA rules, which resulted in Ohio State declaring him ineligible to continue playing college football. Pryor then applied to enter the NFL after the regular draft. Pryor had accepted at the end of the 2010 college football season a suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season for violating NCAA rules. Pryor will be ineligible to practice prior to or play in the first five games of the NFL regular season after he signs.

So, apparently the NFL is the NCAA’s enforcement arm. I thought the NFLPA blew an opportunity to rein in Roger Goodell’s suspension powers during the negotiations. When he first rode into town on his white horse, suspending players after having a talk with them, the media lauded his tough approach. However, it is arbitrary and subject to question. Precedent is discarded. There is no consistency. Terrelle Pryor is Exhibit A of the new era, same as the old one.

Terrelle Pryor is a big story, and I think we can question the guy’s character after the reports that have emerged from Columbus. Whether a team should take him given his football skills or question marks as a quarterback along with the off-field baggage is a different question that has nothing to do with whether the league should be suspending him for five games.

As far as I know, Terrelle Pryor was not arrested, nor convicted, of any crime. Numerous draftees have been while in college. The NFL monitors those situations, and the specific teams can weigh those issues in assessing a player, but they do not impose suspensions leading up to the NFL draft.

What Pryor did was violate administrative procedural rules. The basis seems to be a refusal to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring an agent, something which was his right in exchange for permanently surrendering any right to participate in college athletics again. Did I miss the part where they suspended Pete Carroll from coaching Seattle for a few games last year for leaving USC in the lurch? I’m sure that Reggie Bush suspension for refusing to cooperate with the NCAA was big news and I was just on vacation that week. I’m sure that all the University of Miami players in the league can expect a stern sit down with Sir Roger when they refuse to talk about Nevin Shapiro.

Players have always entered the supplemental draft because of eligibility issues that arose after the NFL draft was conducted. Thirty years ago, Illinois quarterback Dave Wilson went into the supplemental draft after having eligibility issues with his college transcripts. He went in the first round and as far as I know was not suspended. If you want an Ohio State example, Cris Carter entered the supplemental draft after issues over receiving payments.

So, apparently, the NFL is completely changing its approach again. Or this is just another arbitrary decision and other players implicated in taking payments or hiring an agent will be fine. With the NFL’s suspension policy, you never know, but you better hope Roger Goodell likes your handshake.

[photo via Getty]

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