Graduation rules affect Gilyard, others

Two factors contributed to Beanie Wells' slow start as a rookie for the Cardinals last season.

The graduation schedule at Ohio State prevented him from participating in NFL practices until training camp opened. And when camp finally did open, Wells missed the very start while contract talks lingered, only to suffer a sprained ankle on his first day of work.

While all rookies are allowed to participate in their team's postdraft camp, NFL rules prevent players from joining their teams until May 16 or until their colleges have held final examinations, whichever comes later. Players who have already graduated or will graduate before May 16 can join their teams May 16.

I've looked up graduation dates for NFC West draft choices and most should be able to join their teams May 16. A few exceptions:

  • Earl Thomas, Seahawks. Texas holds its graduation May 22, but Thomas' exams conclude May 18 and he is eligible to report after exams. Thomas will miss organized team activities scheduled for May 11, 13 and 17. He can report in time for OTAs scheduled for May 19, 24 and 27. The team has more OTAs scheduled for June 8, 10, 15 and 17, with a voluntary minicamp set for June 22-24.

  • John Skelton, Cardinals. Fordham holds its graduation May 22. Skelton is expected to miss at least some of the three-day organized team activities beginning May 18.

  • Mardy Gilyard, Rams. Cincinnati holds its graduation June 12 and its final exams are from June 5-10. Gilyard will miss OTAs scheduled for May 18, 20, 24-25 and 27, plus OTAs scheduled for June 1-3 and 7-8. He could also miss a minicamp scheduled for June 10-12. The team has more OTAs June 14-17.

  • Jim Dray, Cardinals. Stanford holds its graduation June 12, but Dray has already graduated, so he'll become eligible to report May 16.

  • Walter Thurmond, Seahawks. Oregon holds its graduation June 14, but Thurmond has graduated, so he can report May 16. Thurmond is expected to miss OTAs scheduled for May 11 and 13. He is recovering from knee surgery.

The 49ers do not have OTAs again until May 17. All colleges associated with their draft choices have graduations scheduled for May 16 or earlier. Linebacker Keaton Kristick, an undrafted free agent from Oregon State, is the only 49ers rookie affected. Oregon State holds graduation June 12.