Rule will keep Ngata, Williams from minicamps

Ravens' picks will miss spring workouts because Oregon is in session until June

May 15, 2006|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

After just meeting their rookies this weekend, the Ravens had to part ways with two of their top draft picks for the rest of the offseason camps.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and wide receiver Demetrius Williams both confirmed yesterday that they will miss the remaining 15 spring workouts because of an agreement between the NFL and the NCAA, which likely will force them to play catch-up when Ravens' training camp begins Aug. 1.

The long-standing NFL rule, which came with the encouragement of the American Football Coaches Association, 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the Ravens' training complex until June 16, the last day of exams for the University of Oregon, even though both have withdrawn from the school.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 starting 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."

Notes -- Offensive lineman Chris Chester, who missed the first day of minicamp because of his graduation from the University of Oklahoma, flew in yesterday and participated in the afternoon practice. ... Because running backs coach Tony Nathan was attending his daughter's graduation, assistant Jedd Fisch oversaw that position during minicamps. ... Before their two full-team minicamps in June, the Ravens will have three weeks of voluntary workouts. Those practices are closed to the public and media.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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