Ready or Not, Teens Deserve Crack at NFL

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette, Times-Union sports writer

Maurice Clarett has, in many ways, been his own worst enemy in the falling-out with Ohio State's football program, but it's also hard to justify excluding him from the opportunity to play in the NFL.

A federal judge this week permitted what everybody knew was inevitable: allowing players less than three years removed from high school graduation to enter the NFL Draft.

People will argue how football, from a physical standpoint, is different than baseball or basketball, where such players as LeBron James have made a quick adjustment from high school into the pros. That's true, but it doesn't mean football players with minimal or no college preparation should be prohibited from having the same options as a James, Carmelo Anthony or anybody else.

The Clarett ruling will no doubt open the door for many football players to turn pro before they're ready. There's a bigger growth and maturity factor in a 19-year-old trying to make it in the NFL than other sports, but a player's right to work at the highest level shouldn't face different restrictions just because football is more physical.

If Clarett and players like him fail because they joined the NFL too soon, that's their choice. The point is, they should have that choice. . . .

Blue-chip linebacker recruit Willie Williams, who signed with Miami, showed on his official visit to Florida and on his rap sheet that he's a physical player. Just not the kind you necessarily want in your football program. If the Clarett ruling sticks, Williams may be eyeing the NFL a lot sooner -- if he's not in jail. . . . Bob Knight going over the top at a SALAD BAR! That's not the first place you'd picture the Belly, er, the Bully, making a public spectacle of himself. For those who wonder why Knight wasn't suspended for berating school chancellor David Smith, it's all right there in the numbers. …