The NFL finally ruled Terrell Pryor eligible for Monday’s NFL Supplemental Draft today, though the former former Ohio State QB will serve a 5 game suspension. While Roger Goodell has previously made the most of his leverage over a neutered players union, an amazing precedent has been established here ; the NFL is essentially enforcing disciplinary action over amateur athletes for actions they’ve committed prior to playing one professional down. Or as ESPN.com’s Tim Keown calls it, “the NFL/NCAA merger”.
Goodell cited Pryor’s offense as undermining the “integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft.” He did not provide a definition for the phrase, but apparently it’s a concept that allows the commissioner to collude with the NCAA to grandfather penalties and restrict access to the professional league. For instance, Goodell offered no opinion on whether “integrity of the … draft” extended to the imposition of artificial age restrictions on draft eligibility — restrictions that many observers feel exist solely to maintain the status and money-making ability of the NCAA while ensuring that Goodell’s league does not have to spend money training its own workforce.
Under the current format, the draft’s integrity dictates that someone with the talent and physical attributes displayed by Adrian Peterson while running for 1,900 yards as a freshman at Oklahoma must spend two more years at Old State U before getting paid a salary commensurate to his talents. The average length of an NFL career — roughly 3.5 years — is presumably not a consideration under Goodell’s definition of integrity.
Goodell’s motives for his pre-emptive punishment of Pryor are as unclear as the reasons why the NFLPA reportedly allowed agent Drew Rosenhaus to accept the deal without a fight. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello cited Article 8.6 of the NFL constitution and bylaws, which — broadly speaking — states, “The commissioner is hereby authorized to do whatever the hell he wants, whenever the hell he wants, for whatever the hell reason he sees fit.”