On Terrelle Pryor’s Suspension
Since this seems to be a bit of a lingering issue, I thought I’d bother to collect my thoughts on Terrelle Pryor being permitted to enter the NFL draft but also being suspended for five games. My first thought upon hearing the news was that Roger Goodell had spun his Wheel of Justice again and it had somehow landed on five games, the precise length of time for which Pryor would’ve been suspended had he returned to Ohio State this fall. After a couple minutes of thought, though, I decided that, as much as I don’t care for Roger Goodell and his image-conscious discipline strategy, I actually agreed with Pryor being suspended as a condition of being permitted to enter the Supplemental Draft. As to why, well…
The purpose of the Supplemental Draft is to provide an opportunity for football players whose eligibility status changes between the time of the January early entry deadline and the Supplemental Draft deadline. The NFL’s argument against letting Pryor in the Supplemental Draft was that his status didn’t really change much if at all between January and now; rather, he decided the deal he’d agreed to in January (sit 5 games, then resume playing) was a bad deal. To the extent he’d taken actions within his control since then that would’ve affected his eligibility (hiring an agent, openly taking benefits, etc.), the NFL does not believe the Supplemental Draft should be available to those players because they can be used as a method of manipulating the regular Draft process.
The poster boy for this draft manipulation is Bernie Kosar. A native Ohioan, he wanted to join the Browns. He bypassed the regular entry Draft, where the Vikings likely would’ve selected him, but entered the Supplemental Draft, where he was indeed selected by the Browns. The NFL frowns on that sort of thing, and modified the Supplemental Draft eligibility rules after that.
The NFL is therefore very conscious of players whose status doesn’t change between the regular early entry deadline in January and the Supplemental Draft date, and hesitant to let those players into the draft. Thus the normal supplemental draft players are guys like Caleb King, who loses his academic eligibility for the fall after January, Mike McAdoo, who lost an appeal of his suspension and can’t play this fall, or guys who apply for an extra year of eligibility and are denied after January (I believe Titans FB Ahmard Hall was eligible for this reason). Pryor could have made a case that his circumstances with the NCAA changed enough that he should’ve been eligible, but I don’t find it a persuasive argument, and apparently neither did the NFL. Pryor could have sued, but any litigation wouldn’t have been resolved quickly and he likely would’ve had to wait until next April’s regular draft. Rather than end up in court, the NFL and Pryor’s reps agreed on the suspension so he could play in the NFL this year.
The part that the NFL should have made clear is that Pryor’s suspension is an NFL suspension, not an NFL enforcement of his collegiate suspension, and they should’ve made the suspension a different number of games (I’d have been fine with 4 or 6) to reflect that it was a different suspension. However, I think Roger Goodell as part of his image-conscious discipline strategy would like the ability to suspend players for violations of NCAA rules and otherwise while not under the NFL’s aegis, so that evidently wasn’t a concern of his. That, however, was not why Pryor was suspended.