Pryor included in NFL draft, must sit out 5 games

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Terrelle Pryor will have an opportunity to pursue his NFL dreams, with one significant caveat: The former Ohio State star must still pay for breaking NCAA rules while he was in college.

The league announced Thursday that Pryor is eligible for its supplemental draft, but he won’t be allowed to practice for the team that selects him until Week 6. Pryor gave up his final season with the Buckeyes following an investigation into the team’s memorabilia-for-cash scandal.

He would’ve had to sit out five games had he chosen to return to Ohio State.

“We accept that voluntarily,” Pryor’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told The Associated Press. “It’s a small price to pay for him to have a chance to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.”

A small price that could have broader consequences.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith worked together on the decision, Rosenhaus said. The league hopes it will dissuade future college players who run afoul of the NCAA from trying to use the NFL as a means of escaping punishment. But it also creates this dilemma: Does the NFL have the authority to suspend a player who doesn’t even work for the NFL yet?

“I know players are concerned about the message this sends,” said Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the players’ executive committee. “Granted, making this `deal’ was an individual decision made by a player with counsel from his agent and lawyer. They have every right to make whatever deal they want for his personal future. That being said, the general concern now is how far into Pandora’s box this may go.

“This raises so many questions, and I think players are rightfully concerned.”

The league informed clubs that Pryor “made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft.” Among those actions, the league said, were the hiring of an agent in violation of NCAA rules and a failure to cooperate with the investigation that cost Ohio State coach Jim Tressel his job. The NCAA committee on infractions is working to determine the school’s final penalties.

League spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted you can’t break the rules as Pryor did “and get a free pass into the NFL.”

Goodell did not confer with NCAA President Mark Emmert on the decision, said Bob Williams, a spokesman for the college sports governing body. The commissioner “called Mark to inform him of his intent. Nothing more,” Williams said.

One of the points of contention during negotiations for a new NFL labor agreement was the authority given to the commissioner to hand out punishment. In the end, there were no changes to Goodell’s position, but his decision to suspend Pryor worried players.

“It’s a little questionable, but I guess they’re really trying to not allow guys to manipulate the NCAA system and be able to take a quicker path to the NFL,” said Bills safety George Wilson, an NFLPA representative. “I see what the commissioner’s trying to do at his end as well, but it’s still tough to take.”

“It’s still a tough pill to take, knowing that you’re being suspended for something that took place while you were at college. But we’ll see what happens.”

David Cornwell, Pryor’s attorney, said he was pleased that quarterback is eligible for the supplemental draft _ which was his “primary objective” _ although having to sit out five games was not the ideal situation.

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