The NFL will finally change a rule that barred rookies from participating in organized team activities (OTAs) if their school was still in session, according to Pro Football Talk.
While the rule aimed to prevent athletes from cutting classes and leaving school just before the finish line to practice with their new NFL squads, it often punished rookies who weren’t even enrolled and forced them to deal with a sharper learning curve. So while it had good intentions, it was definitely time for the NFL to dump the rule.
Whether or not it will be scrapped entirely remains to be seen, but it will presumably be tweaked to avoid keeping players away from their team facilities unnecessarily.
In particular, players from schools on quarter systems — including a few college powers like UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon — were forced to stay away from their new professional homes until after final exams, whether they were enrolled or not.
"[Running backs coach Jim Skipper will] quiz me over the phone, and then I'll go over everything, and he'll tell me what to learn for the next day," McCaffrey said in June, via Panthers.com. “You can still get the plays down and get good training when you're home, but nothing will ever compete with actually getting the reps on the field, being with the guys.
"It is what it is. That's the rule, and we'll just have to deal with it."
The NFL implemented the rule in 1990 "to protect student-athletes who have remained in school to complete their schoolwork," rather than pressuring players to drop out of school and join their new clubs, according to NFL.com.
“It was so frustrating,” Thomas told PFT Live in August. “It was extremely annoying. The rule doesn’t make sense. I really hope they take it out for other athletes that have to go through it, especially those who weren’t draft picks because that hurts them even more, they can’t even show off at OTAs. So that hurts them even more. So I really hope they take this rule away and just let the guys go.”
The exception to the rule was to graduate early — something that 2016 first-round picks DeForest Buckner and Joshua Garnett both did — to participate in OTAs. But now, players will be allowed to choose for themselves when to begin practicing with their new teams. And it’s about time.