Ban on pre-draft deals hard to enforce

April 23, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

HERNDON, Va. -- Commissioner Paul Tagliabue may have problems enforcing his edict banning teams from making deals with players before they draft them.

Concerned about the antitrust implications, Tagliabue ruled VTC recently that teams can't follow the example of the Chicago Bears, who came to terms with Mark Carrier before drafting him last year.

But when the first round dragged on for five hours Sunday, there were suspicions that one of the reasons for the delay was that teams were talking contract with players.

It was even more suspicious yesterday, when the Dallas Cowboys announced they had signed their first three picks -- defensive lineman Russell Maryland, wide receiver Alvin Harper and linebacker Dixon Edwards.

The Cowboys denied making early deals. They denied making a deal with Maryland even though Tagliabue said the team with the first pick could negotiate in advance.

"We weren't concerned about stepping over the guidelines," Cowboy owner Jerry Jones said. "We had communication with Leigh Steinberg [Maryland's agent], and he volunteered that Russell would be very proud to be be here and gave us an idea of the range of money. We made our pick on that understanding, but we didn't have a financial agreement until after the pick."

General manager Charley Casserly said the Washington Redskins didn't make any pregame deals, but he wondered what other teams were doing.

"People have speculated, and I have no idea, believe me, but I've had other clubs speculate that's why the first round took so long. We'll find out who made the deals. It should be interesting," he said.

It may turn out that the Tagliabue edict is impossible to enforce, since any agent or player making a deal in advance isn't going to blow the whistle.

* Of the 334 players selected in the annual National Football League draft the past two days, nobody has to beat longer odds than Kevin Walker.

The Nebraska defensive lineman, taken in the eighth round by the Denver Broncos, will attempt to become the second deaf player to play in the NFL.

The first was Bonnie Sloan, who lasted a season in 1973 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Walker, who became deaf at age 2 because of an illness, has said he likes to be a role model to show how much deaf people can accomplish.

A quick, 230-pounder, Walker would normally be tried at linebacker. But since he can't hear the signals that often change before every play for linebackers, he'll have to try to make it as a defensive lineman.

He's a bit light for a defensive lineman in the pros, but he'll have a lot of fans pulling for him when he gives it a shot this summer.

* The last player selected in the 12th round, quarterback Larry Wanke of John Carroll, who was picked by the New York Giants, will be honored at "Irrelevant Week" in Newport Beach, Calif.

He also got a lot of attention because he's a quarterback.

Tom Boisture, the Giants' director of player personnel, said Wanke was a "conversation piece" in the draft room.

"By the type of conversation, you'd have thought he was a third- or fourth-round pick," Boisture said.

* Eric Bieniemy, the Colorado running back drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the second round yesterday, faces an arrest warrant in Rifle, Colo., for speeding, driving under suspension and failing to appear in court.

Bieniemy said he knew nothing about it, but the police said he can avoid arrest if he sets up a court appearance.

* Before the draft, all of the teams complained about the quality of the draft.

After the draft, all said they had had a good draft. Figure it out.

Typical was Larry Wilson, general manager of the Phoenix Cardinals, who said, "It went pretty good for us."

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