Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Demetrius Williams will miss
the remaining 15 spring workouts because of an agreement between the NFL and the
NCAA that limits a player to one minicamp with his pro team while his school is
still in session.
Ngata, a first-round pick, and Williams, a fourth-round selection, aren't
allowed to return to the Ravens' training complex until June 16, the last day of
exams for the University of Oregon, even though both have withdrawn from the
school. The last day of minicamps for the Ravens is June 15.
"It really (stinks) because I'm going to be way behind in learning the
playbook," said Ngata, who is expected to start immediately. "I'm going to try
my hardest to communicate with the coaches and try to teach myself."
Ravens officials were aware of the rule when they drafted both players.
This policy, which was designed to help players stay in school, affects a small
number of rookies because most colleges hold commencement in the middle of May,
a time when most NFL teams are just starting to hold minicamps.
But players from schools that hold spring exams in June -- such as Oregon, Ohio State, UCLA, Stanford and Washington -- are penalized.
In talking with prospects at the scouting combine in February, Ravens coach
Brian Billick estimated that 90 percent had already left school. Many players
stop attending classes as soon as the football season ends in order to start
working out for the draft.
"The intent (of the rule) was correct and we always supported it, but the
problem is that it's not happening. Players are going to stay in school or
they're not," Billick said. "This (offseason work) is important stuff. If we
didn't need to do this, we wouldn't. For them to miss that amount of time, it's
very unfortunate for them. It puts them at a competitive disadvantage. The rule
needs to be re-evaluated."
The purpose of spring workouts is to give first-year players a foundation for
the system and a familiarity with teammates that will carry into training camp.
The sessions include non-contact practices that are followed by meetings where
they break down the playbook and film.
Billick said the Ravens would send instructional DVDs that will help Ngata and
Williams digest the information. Coaches could also visit them.
"It puts me behind," said Williams, a candidate for the No. 3 receiver spot who
is still searching for someone to throw to him over the next month.
"When I come to training camp, a lot of guys are going to be off and running.
It's just difficult. I don't think it's that great of a rule."
Because Ngata and Williams are virtually assured spots on the roster, the one
Ravens newcomer who is most affected by this rule is undrafted quarterback Drew Olson.
Hoping to catch on as the No. 3 quarterback, Olson understands missing those
minicamps could hurt his chances. On pace to graduate from UCLA with a history
degree, he is trying to see if he can attend the June minicamps by taking his
final exams early.
"It would definitely be a bummer if I couldn't be here," Olson said. "Obviously,
(the minicamps are) huge, crucial and beneficial for myself. It's kind of in the
hands of the professors right now."