SPECIAL TO OURLADS’ BLOG by David Sanders
There is naturally plenty to be excited about now that the NFL lockout has ended and the season is within days of beginning. Many people have begun to look into free NFL Sunday ticket, set up their fantasy football leagues, and prepare to watch some great football this season. Also worth noting, however, are some potentially very significant policies and decisions that the NFL has stuck to on its way into this season, which could have huge effects going forward.
Most recently, and perhaps most significantly, the NFL made a very important ruling regarding former Ohio State star Terrelle Pryor. As you have probably heard by now if you are someone who follows the sports world, Pryor has basically been under investigation and scrutiny for selling merchandise (such as a championship ring and an award he won) for money during his college career. While the items sold were his personal property, the money is basically considered an “unfair benefit,” because it is a direct result of athletic success.
Pryor, having signed with NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, recently entered the NFL supplemental draft, and was selected by the Oakland Raiders. However, because of the unique nature and timing of his offenses in college, the NFL basically ruled that Pryor had not been sufficiently punished, banning him for his first 5 games with the Raiders. Pryor has accepted the penalty, and Drew Rosenhaus recently stated that they would not appeal the ruling; Rosenhaus has also said that Pryor will be one of the league’s top quarterbacks in a matter of years.
The significance in all of this is not what happens with Pryor, but rather what kind of precedent the NFL’s handling of the situation has set. It is not often that we see the college/professional line breached to this extend, with the NFL punishing a player for something that happened in college. Generally, turning professional offers players a “clean slate” of sorts. Does the Terrelle Pryor ruling represent a shift in this policy?
Already, there are a number of specific instances that come to mind when considering what might happen if the NFL starts punishing players or coaches for college mistakes. For example, will we see Seahawks coach Pete Carroll or Dolphins running back Reggie Bush punished for their violations at USC? As the drama unfolds around the University of Miami football program’s serious violations, will we see professional players from Miami punished or suspended? It is an interesting dilemma to consider, and it is also one that could easily spread to other sports… is it fair to punish players so far down the line, once they turn professional? Is it worse to let people get away with violations simply because they graduated or left a school before the violations were discovered? Is this even the NFL’s call to make?