May 4, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers second round draft pick offensive tackle Mike Adams (76) participates in drills during rookie minicamp and orientation. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
I had written after the draft Steelers rookie OG David DeCastro would be able to attend the Steelers Organized Team Activities (OTAs), which begin Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
I was wrong, DeCastro will not be able to attend OTAs because of a completely nonsensical NFL rule prohibiting rookies to practice with their pro teams until the academic calendar year of the school they attended is over. All rookies can attend their team's rookie minicamp, which both Adams and DeCastro did.
I ran the report using logic, which was my first mistake. The fact DeCastro graduated in December, and did not attend classes of any kind (including graduate school) in the third or fourth quarters at Stanford led me to believe he would be exempt from the rule, which is in place to vainly stem the tide of underclassmen declaring for the draft and skipping out on classwork in the second semester of the year.
The amount of reasons why this rule is ridiculously stupid and out-of-date exceed my target of words per post, but I'll dive into a few of them.
First off, it's another rule that exists solely because it hasn't been legally challenged. Let's step past the fact DeCastro remains unsigned as of Sunday. If he was, the NFL and the NCAA have essentially a handshake agreement to not allow professionals to begin their jobs for the sake of keeping them in school. While in a small percentage of cases, this does make some sense, there is absolutely no reason why DeCastro should be held to this rule. He is no longer a student of Stanford University. He is an alumnus. He fulfilled the academic requirements for a degree, and is probably fielding calls from the school asking for money as I write this.
What difference does it make if Johnny Stanford Student has tests to take in June? While it seems trivial in the grand scheme of things, the fact is he's soon to be officially a professional football player. How is it the NFL's right to deny him the start of his career until the school he hasn't attended since December hasn't let out for the summer?
The initial impression we've gotten from DeCastro is he is an all-business all-seriousness all-the-time kind of guy. He wants to get out on the field and learn how to play at the pro level with his teammates. Even if it is just OTAs, he should be allowed to do that.
He is no longer under scholarship. The school provided him with nothing outside the use of their facilities for workouts and his pro day. But the school, as well as his future employer (the NFL) prevent him from starting his post-college career.
I reported Adams wouldn't be able to attend, just like Ohio State alumni (using that term loosely) Santonio Holmes and Cameron Heyward, first round Steelers draft picks, and every other former OSU player who is drafted or gets signed to an NFL team's roster. That makes little more sense, with the only difference being Adams did not graduate.
Why must we continue to feed the false notion a young man of Adams' ability is in college to earn a degree? Why does he have to perpetuate the facade that Ohio State University, or any other major college football program, exists to give him an education?
He's there to help ensure alumni dollars continue to roll in and keep the stadium seats full. Adams, in turn, gets a hardcore education in his future career as a professional football player.
It's ok to simply call it what it is. Gone is the era of the Academic All America who wins the Heisman Trophy and weighs whether to go to medical school or play professional football. Adams signed a contract that is going to pay him $500,000 a year for the next four years. If he does well, he will easily make 10 times that amount. If he doesn't, or he gets injured, he can go back to school, or generally do whatever he wants.
Those are facts. Ironically, the best job a guy like Adams can get, a pro athlete, does not require a college degree (according to NFL bylaws, a player doesn't even need to attend college), so why should any of those prospective players be prevented from starting that career because their former classmates still have papers to write?
The worst part of this is no one can provide a valid answer to that question. I can't even find where this rule is written. It's not in the NFL bylaws, which I read top to bottom in researching this column.
All of this strongly suggests it's a rule without any meaning; kind of like the Simpsons' hometown of Springfield have a rule on the books requiring ducks to wear long pants (4F15).
The problem is, even the mythical and dysfunctional town of Springfield doesn't enforce the ducks wearing long pants law. It's not clear why the NFL enforces their rule, but I will use less logic when writing in the future.