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Deadline not extended for previously eligible

NEW YORK -- Want to play in the NFL? It's sign-up time for
high school players and newly eligible college underclassmen.

A day after a federal judge struck down the league's rule
limiting the draft to players at least three years out of high
school, the NFL set a March 1 deadline for those covered to apply
for this year's draft.

As part of the new rules issued Friday to comply with the
decision, the newly eligible players must obtain a form from the
NFL.

The March 1 date does not apply to players previously eligible
to apply for the draft -- they had a Jan. 15 deadline.

Players who became eligible because of Thursday's decision in
the case of Ohio State sensation Maurice Clarett must apply for the
draft by Feb. 15 to be considered for invitations to the scouting
combine, which starts Feb. 18 in Indianapolis.


Clarett and Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, now among the 43 underclass prospects eligible for the '04 draft, will be invited to the combine workouts, ESPN.com has learned.

The league notified U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin on
Friday that it would file papers Tuesday seeking a stay of her
decision, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. The NFL's new draft rules
apply only if the Clarett decision remains in force.

Scheindlin has scheduled a hearing on the case for Wednesday,
and it is possible the stay application will addressed then, Aiello
said.

In her 71-page opinion, Scheindlin declared the rule violated
antitrust laws and proposed alternatives.

"Age is obviously a poor proxy for NFL-readiness, as is a
restriction based solely on height and weight," she wrote.
"Medical examinations and tests are available to measure an
individual player's maturity. The league could easily use those
tests to screen out players who are not prepared to play in the
NFL. ...

"By requiring draft prospects to submit to these examinations,
the league could provide valuable information about player maturity
to its teams and allow them to decide whether a prospect is worth
selecting."

On Friday, NCAA president Myles Brand called the ruling a "setback"
from an educational perspective. He suggested that the NFL and
NBA look elsewhere for ways to prepare young athletes for the
pros.

Brand said it's ironic that the two major professional sports
without developmental leagues will have two of the most liberal
draft rules if this decision isn't overturned.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli was used in this report.