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NFL: Ruling on Pryor not based on NCAA

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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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Although it seems so on the surface, the NFL’s decision to allow Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor into its supplemental college draft does not mean the league will begin enforcing NCAA punishments and suspensions.

The NFL ruled Thursday that Pryor was accepted into the special six-man draft that will be held Monday. However, Pryor will not be allowed to play or practice with an NFL team for the first five regular-season games.

That punishment corresponds with the suspension Pryor was facing had he returned for his senior season at Ohio State. But NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is “enforcing our own rules” rather than carrying over the NCAA’s suspension.

“Pryor made decisions that undermined the integrity of our draft eligibility rules,” Aiello told FOXSports.com in an email. “He skipped the regular draft. He then made himself ineligible for college football.

“Our rules have never been based on the notion a college player could choose to violate NCAA rules, obtain a declaration that he is ineligible to play and then be rewarded by entering the NFL draft. He is not getting a free pass into the NFL.”

The five-game suspension was a condition given Pryor by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for entry into the supplemental draft. Pryor, who can attend player meetings during that stretch, was amenable to the mandate.

“He wants to be a National Football League quarterback,” said attorney David Cornwell, who represented Pryor in draft negotiations with the league. “The sooner he gets drafted by a team, into a camp, and begins the process of taking his skills and matching them with what’s expected from an NFL quarterback, the sooner he’ll have the chance to get on the field and play.”

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Confirming a profootballtalk.com report, NFL Players Association executive George Atallah told FOXSports.com that his union consented to allow Pryor into the draft with restrictions. But such a decision “does not set any sort of precedent for future situations,” Atallah said.

“There is no formalized plan or agreement between us and the league to do this in the future,” Atallah wrote in an email.

A source told FOXSports.com that the NFLPA agreed to accept Goodell’s conditions at the urging of Pryor and his agents. Pryor will be allowed to practice with his new NFL team for the remainder of the preseason before the suspension goes into effect.

In early June, Pryor announced he was leaving Ohio State for the NFL’s supplemental draft. The league, though, didn’t grant Pryor immediate entry because of questions about whether he qualified.

The supplemental draft traditionally consists of prospects whose college playing status changed after the January entry deadline for the traditional college draft. Examples include players who were kicked off their college teams, declared academically ineligible or graduated and then decided to leave school.

Such guidelines are intended to prevent college prospects from skipping the traditional college draft to better control their destiny in the supplemental draft. Ex-quarterback Bernie Kosar manipulated the 1985 draft to avoid getting selected by Minnesota in the traditional college draft and land with Cleveland in the supplemental draft.

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The NFL also doesn’t want to open the floodgates for players who wish to reconsider their college status after the April college draft is held.

In December, Pryor agreed to a five-game suspension for the start of the 2011 college season. He was found guilty of violating NCAA rules and by selling $2,500 of merchandise given to him by Ohio State. Pryor was then allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.

Pryor, though, left Ohio State shortly after head coach Jim Tressel resigned in late May for covering up the payola scandal committed by his quarterback and four Buckeyes teammates.

Cornwell said multiple NFL executives made themselves available over the past two weeks to hear Pryor’s plea, including a five-hour meeting Aug. 5 that involved the league’s security/investigative staff. The league even postponed the draft scheduled for Wednesday while considering Pryor’s status.

“I think the greatest challenge was making sure everybody understood what the facts were – what occurred and how they impacted Terrelle’s analysis and decision to make himself available for the supplemental draft,” Cornwell said.

One of the most highly sought high school recruits in Buckeye history, Pryor was 31-4 as a starter during three seasons at Ohio State. But like Buckeyes predecessor Troy Smith, it appears NFL teams have serious doubts about whether Smith has the skill set to duplicate such success at the pro level.

Pryor also isn’t expected to make a splash in 2011 because of the pending suspension and the fact he has missed so much preseason work already.

Profootballtalk.com first reported that Pryor will conduct a Saturday workout for NFL teams at a high school in Pittsburgh.

Other players allowed entry into the supplemental draft are running back Caleb King (Georgia), defensive backs Torez Jones (Western Carolina) and Tracy Wilson (Northern Illinois), and defensive ends Keenan Mace (Lindenwood) and Michael McAdoo (North Carolina).

Any team that chooses a supplemental draft-eligible player will lose a corresponding pick in the 2012 college draft. Prospects who are un-drafted can be signed as college free agents.

David Cornwell was interviewed Thursday morning by Alex Marvez and Bob Papa on Sirius XM NFL Radio

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