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NFL's position on Pryor strengthens relationship with NCAA

  • By Craig Ellenport NFL.com
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When the NFL announced Thursday that it would let former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor enter next Monday's supplemental draft -- but also impose a five-game suspension upon his signing with a team -- the message seemed clear: If you mess with the NCAA, you mess with us.

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That message was well-received in college circles.

"We all have a vested interest, and trying to work together is extremely important," said former Baylor football coach Grant Teaff, who has been executive director of the American Football Coaches Association since 1994. "This is an important issue, and from my standpoint, I feel the NFL has handled it properly."

Pryor had been suspended by Ohio State at the end of last season and was to sit out the first five games of what would have been his senior season this fall. Instead, he left school in the spring, hired an agent and began the process of declaring himself for the supplemental draft.

In announcing Pryor's eligibility and suspension Thursday, the league said NFL teams "were informed that Pryor made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft."

Teaff applauded the NFL's decision to carry over Pryor's suspension, noting that the college coaching fraternity felt very strongly about the issue and has reached out specifically on the idea of having NCAA suspensions carry over to the NFL.

"They've held true with what we asked them to do," Teaff said. "The NFL has indicated that they will honor the penalties imposed on any student-athlete."

Count former University of Florida coach Urban Meyer among those in favor of the NFL's decision.

"I'm not an expert on exactly what happened at Ohio State, but I agree with the NFL that we have to be careful about people involved in NCAA issues having the ability to just leave and jump to the NFL with no recourse," Meyer said.

Meyer recalled being part of a college committee that worked with the NFL and NFLPA on the issues of player agents.

"It came to light there were some major violations that had occurred recently where a player was involved with an agent," Meyer said. "He received benefits and went on to the NFL, and all that was left behind was a program where the current players and current coaching staff were going to pay the price. There was no repercussion on the player that left."

So will the NFL's decision to carry over NCAA penalties deter such behavior in the future?

"There's no question it will," Meyer said. "I've dealt with that on several occasions that the athlete will look at is as just a free pass. 'If this doesn't work out, if I break these rules, get kicked off the team, whatever happens, I just go to the NFL.'

"Any time you can have the NFL -- whether you consider it working together or at least respecting what the NCAA is trying to accomplish, that's a positive."

NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah told FOXSports.com that the union approved the Pryor suspension, but that it wasn't a precedent. The NFL never said it was a precedent, either. If Teaff and the college community had their way, it would be.

"Yes," Teaff said. "That is an obvious issue, because right now an individual player can get a school put on probation and go about their business and there are no penalties."

Whether or not a precedent has been set remains to be seen, but the move is a reminder that the NFL and NCAA are willing partners in the business of football.

"I think the two organizations, they've got to be together," former NFL and college coach Jimmy Johnson said Friday morning on ESPN Radio. "They've got to be on the same page and have got to work together. Both can benefit each other as far as eligibility rules, as far as the draft and on and on.

"I think the NFL has been adamant about wanting these players to stay in school and get their education. So it's not like they're saying, 'Hey come on out and play in the NFL.' (They're saying,) 'We want them to stay in school. We want them to get their education and come out when their time is up.' "

Pryor's lawyer, David Cornwell, said Friday that they likely would appeal the suspension. Cornwell told ESPN Radio he was "not pleased" with the league's decision.

But Pryor contradicted his lawyer after his workout on Saturday, saying there would be no appeal.

Regardless of any potential appeal outcome, Teaff and others remain pleased.

"This, I know, is a tiny step in the right direction," he said. "But we're appreciative that the commissioner and the NFL have made this effort to try to carry through on NCAA rules imposed on the student-athletes under the NCAA rules."

As for the idea that the NFL and NCAA shouldn't be working this closely, Teaff had a quick retort.

"You can't not work together. Period," he said. "You don't want two separate groups not working together for the best interests of the game and those that play it. That's where we are today and why the NFL is where it is today. The NFL would be hard-pressed without college football."

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