After months of maneuvering by both sides, the NFL finally stepped aside and let Terrelle Pryor through its gates.
But not without leaving a puzzling impediment in his path.
The NFL on Thursday declared Pryor eligible for the NFL's supplemental draft, which will take place Monday after being postponed (because of Pryor's situation). The former Ohio State quarterback and his legal team went to great lengths to show that his situation with Ohio State had indeed changed, a requirement for any player wishing to enter the supplemental draft.
Regardless of what you think about Pryor and his misdeeds at Ohio State, he shouldn't be deprived of a chance to earn a living. Pro football is a business, and if Pryor can provide the services an NFL team needs, he should be given the opportunity to work.
Here's the odd part about the NFL's decision: Pryor is suspended from practicing or playing for the first five games after he signs with a pro club (he can attend meetings). Remember, Pryor would have been sidelined the first five games this season had he returned to Ohio State for selling memorabilia items in exchange for cash and tattoos. That is, until a separate NCAA investigation resulted in Ohio State ruling Pryor ineligible for the entire season, a decision Pryor and his lawyers wanted to help him enter the supplemental draft.
I know a lot of folks want Pryor to be punished for his conduct in Columbus. The NFL is already being praised for suspending Pryor. But carrying over a college punishment to the pro level -- when no laws were broken -- seems odd and inconsistent. The Big Ten Network's Howard Griffith called it a "dangerous precedent."
From the NFL's memo to its teams:
"... Pryor made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft. Those actions included failing to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring an agent in violation of NCAA rules, which resulted in Ohio State declaring him ineligible to continue playing college football. Pryor then applied to enter the NFL after the regular draft. Pryor had accepted at the end of the 2010 college football season a suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season for violating NCAA rules. Pryor will be ineligible to practice prior to or play in the first five games of the NFL regular season after he signs."
Let's not forget what the supplemental draft is: a chance for players whose eligibility situation changed after the regular NFL draft in April to earn money from teams willing to pay them. As The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises tweeted, the supplemental draft is "by definition a rule breakers' draft." Should all impending punishments for players at the college level now be carried over to the NFL?
It seems like the NFL is throwing the NCAA a bone at a very difficult time for college sports' governing body. After all the scandals at high-profile programs, most recently the Miami bombshell dropped earlier this week, the NCAA needs to feel like it still matters. Roger Goodell might be getting a Christmas card from Mark Emmert. Yippee.
For Pryor, the suspension likely isn't a huge deal. Rookie quarterbacks rarely see the game field, and those joining a team so close to the season can pretty much forget about it.
Pryor tweeted Thursday morning: "God bless and thanks for support! Time to have a little fun!!"
Ohio State hopes it's also time to create some more distance between itself and its former quarterback.