I’ve generally agreed with the decisions of NFL commissioner
Roger Goodell, but suspending former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor for
the first five games this season is venturing into territory where Goodell has
no authority to tread.
It’s likely that Pryor won’t play in the first five games,
anyway, because he’ll need time to learn the offense. His team, which will be
decided in Monday’s supplemental draft, will need time to assess his skills and
decide whether it will try him at quarterback, receiver or tight end first.
Pryor could be an option for a few plays a game as the season opens, but even a lover of speed
demons like Raiders owner Al Davis probably wouldn’t send Pryor onto the field
without weeks of training.
Goodell and the NFL may suspect that after the Ohio State
scandal broke, Pryor may have accepted more illegal benefits from mentor Ted
Sarniak to orchestrate his way out of college and into the NFL. That has to be
the leg the league is standing on with this suspension.
And while Pryor and his agent Drew Rosenhaus have accepted
it willingly, players union leader Scott Fujita of the Browns has already
expressed reservations over the Pandora’s box this suspension opens.
Did the league investigate Pryor’s illegal benefits before
making its decision? Did it glean information from the NCAA? Is it worried that
while Maurice Clarett’s legal battle failed to overturn the NFL’s
three-years-from-high-school-graduation eligibility rule, Pryor may have
discovered a loophole that more players could exploit?
As John Saunders on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” commented
Sunday morning, if Pryor has to serve a suspension, why not former USC coach
Pete Carroll with the Seattle Seahawks? Carroll fled to the pros just before
the Trojans’ woes over Heisman Trophy-winner Reggie Bush became public.
The team that selects Pryor Monday must be wary of a player
whose sense of entitlement has been through the roof since his high school
days. I still don’t believe Pryor currently has the mechanics to play
quarterback in the NFL. But there’s no doubt he has an intriguing set of
athletic skills, including the ability to glide like a gazelle. He deserves a
chance to attempt to launch his career without NFL-imposed limitations.