Chicago Sun-Times

NFL's stay in school program snares safety Afalava

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Safety Al Afalava is the only draft pick that will miss significant time in OTA's, which begin May 20, because of the league's rule that rookies cannot participate in anything beyond one minicamp until after May 16 if they have a degree or their school has already held its commencement ceremonies.

The sixth-round pick is from Oregon State and graduation day is not until June 13. That means Afalava would be eligible to participate in the final week of OTA's. There are two in May--on the 20th and 21st--and then they resume June 1 with four per week for three weeks.

"I am going to ask them for some homework," Afalava said. "Whatever they give me, I am going to do my best. I love to study football and I catch on fast, but it's the NFL and hopefully I don't get too behind."

Presumably, the rule is in place so the NFL does not look like it is working to pull players away from their educations, but it's not going to help Afalava in his bid to get educated on the Bears' defense. The measure could also be in place to protect draft picks from being overburdened with work by teams before they have signed contracts. Many of the players are not even in school during the spring, choosing to spend the time preparing and training for the draft. Nonetheless, they have to follow the timetable for their school's graduation and at places with the quarters system--like Oregon State--there is a wait.

Ohio State is also on the quarters system and does not have graduation until June 14 but linebacker Marcus Freeman, a fifth-round pick, already has a degree in hand. He returned for his senior season having already earned it, so he was working on graduate level courses. That means he will be cleared to return after May 16.

Here is our unofficial rundown of commencement dates for the other players and their schools:

WR Johnny Knox, Abilene Christian, May 9
WE Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma, May 15
CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt, May 8
G Lance Louis, San Diego State, May 23
DE Henry Melton, Texas, May 23
DT Jarron Gilbert, San Jose State, May 23
WR Derek Kinder, Pitt, April 26

*** Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen conducted his first wide-ranging interview since the Jay Cutler trade with Denver Post columnist Woody Paige. In it, Bowlen acknowledged new coach Josh McDaniels has made some "rookie mistakes." McDaniels' part in the Cutler fiasco would probably qualify as one although we're not sure it's a good thing a week after the draft when the owner is wondering why more draft picks were not used on defensive players. As one assistant coach in the league told us several years ago, "It doesn't matter what I think if the owner doesn't like the idea."

Here is what Bowlen had to say about the statement he issued March 31 declaring that the Broncos would work to trade the quarterback:

"Honestly, I still don't know what happened with Jay. I don't want to throw him under the bus, but I made two phone calls [and there is proof, Broncos executives claim] and left voice mails with my cell number and asked him to call me, and he didn't," Bowlen said. "I don't do e-mails. If Jay had called and said he thought the coach was (not a nice person) and he wanted out of here, I would have said, 'Let's work this out.' But I heard nothing directly from him.

"Pick up the phone! That's where we got off the rails. We had no other choice but to trade him. If [the trade talk] was the reason Jay left, he should have left."

This storyline will probably keep its feet for some time, at least through the Bears' preseason game at Denver.

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This really isn't sounding good for the Broncos at the moment. Train Wreck might be the kindest way to describe it.

In the long run, for most of these guy's, the NFL's stay in school program is a good thing. Because in the end, most of these guy's won't even make it, and it will be a good thing for many of them to have a post secondary education to fall back on.

But for arguments sake, how is the league gonna let juniors come out early, and at the same time not let seniors participate until after their commencement ceremonies? If your gonna let a guy come out as a junior, why make a senior, who stayed in, fall behind in the NFL going into training camp just because of his commencement ceremony? I say if their drafted or they make a squad, let em participate, especially if your gonna let guys come out early as juniors.

Don't get me wrong, I agree with the program. I actually think college players shouldn't be draft eligible until their seniors, especially quarterbacks. But that topic remains open for debate.

Hopefully rookie safety Al Afalava will be alright and won't fall behind to much. It sounds like he's pretty sharp and might have pretty good ball skills. Afalava had 7 pass breakups to go along with 2 ints, one being a pick 6 last season at Oregon State. He'll be one to keep an eye on this summer GO BEARS!!

Kevin - a simple way to fix this problem is to give the seniors who are "caught" in the situation (afalava in this case) a weeks roster exemption for every week they they "miss." That way they get some extra time to show their stuff and nobody has to be cut to keep them around.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on May 4, 2009 7:55 AM.

In a numbers game, Bears going with what they have for now was the previous entry in this blog.

With the draft in rear view mirror, ex-Bear Mike Brown still seeking work is the next entry in this blog.

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