The good news for Terrelle Pryor?
He’s been declared eligible for the NFL’s supplemental draft set to take place on Monday, August 22, 2011.
The bad news for Terrelle Pryor?
His declaration for the supplemental draft coincided with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling that Pryor cannot participate in the first five games of the NFL’s regular season or practice with a team between the end of the preseason and week six of the NFL season.
The league rationalized this sanction by explaining, “… Pryor made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft. Those actions included failing to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring an agent in violation of NCAA rules, which resulted in Ohio State declaring him ineligible to continue playing college football.”
As noted by the league, the NCAA suspended Pryor for the first five games of the 2011 football season. The suspension stemmed from the NCAA’s investigation of the Ohio State University football program, where Pryor played quarterback for three seasons and racked up an impressive 31-4 record and Rose and Sugar Bowl victories. The NCAA investigation centered upon allegations that Pryor and other Ohio State football players sold memorabilia in exchange for cash and discounts on tattoos.
In further support of its decision to not allow Pryor to play the first five games of the NFL season, if drafted by a team during the NFL’s supplemental draft, the league noted, “Pryor had accepted at the end of the 2010 college football season a suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season for violating NCAA rules.”
Thus far, the league’s decision to institute a five-game moratorium against Pryor has not been challenged by Pryor; his agent, Drew Rosenhaus; or his attorney, David Cornwell. A source indicated that the NFLPA believed Pryor should challenge the sanction, but that his agent and attorney “. . . believed it was a losing battle and that Pryor should accept the NFL’s punishment and move on.”
Did Pryor lose his battle against the NFL on the day that he was declared eligible for the NFL supplemental draft?
Or is his battle just beginning?
In 1977, the NFL created its supplemental draft as a way “. . . accommodate players who did not enter the regular draft.” The most common reasons why players enter the supplemental draft are that they missed the filing deadline for the NFL Draft or had a change in their collegiate playing status due to eligibility issues. Teams obtaining players through the supplemental draft must forfeit their pick in the round equivalent to which the player selected in the supplemental draft would have been selected in the actual NFL Draft.
Pryor’s agent and attorney are likely reasonable for encouraging Pryor to accept the punishment set forth by the NFL so that he can participate in the supplemental draft and presumptively be selected by a team and begin earning a salary as a NFL player.
However, the supplemental draft’s forfeiture rules provide a basis for Pryor to obtain relief against this sanction in the future, if need be.
Common law recognizes a cause of action for tortious interference with business relationships. This cause of action arises when a “tortfeasor acts to prevent [a] plaintiff from successfully establishing [a] business relationship.” A plaintiff can assert a cause of action for tortious interference with business relationships “. . . when a first party’s conduct intentionally causes a second party not to enter into a business relationship with a third-party that otherwise would probably have occurred.”
In this instance, the first party is the NFL. The second party is any NFL team who, prior to the institution of a five-game suspension against Pryor, was interested in drafting Pryor in the supplemental draft. The third party is Pryor.
Drew Rosenhaus, who as an agent set to earn at least ten percent of his client’s salary, has as much of an interest in Pryor’s draft placement as Pryor himself, pegs his client to be drafted in the first round of the supplemental draft. Thus, given the rules of the NFL’s supplemental draft, a team drafting Pryor next week will have to give up their 2012 first round draft pick.
For those who dispute Rosenhaus’ assertion that his client is a first round draft pick as mere puffery, Pryor’s collegiate stats and victories solidify him as at the least, a second round pick.
There is little argument to be made against the notion that rookie quarterbacks face difficulty when learning a new team’s playbook. Given that Goodell has forced Pryor to sit out over one-third of his rookie and the NFL’s sixteen game season, will NFL teams bite on drafting Pryor early and face losing a top-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft? Or, will Pryor fall to later rounds of the supplemental draft and risk losing the monetary benefits associated with signing with a NFL team as a high-round draft pick?
Pryor and the world will find out on Monday.
But should Monday come, and Rosenhaus’ client isn’t drafted in the early rounds of the supplemental draft, I’d suggest that he get on the phone with Pryor’s attorney, David Cornwell.
At that time, the two should decide whether it’s a losing battle to assert a cause of action for tortious interference with business relationships against the NFL. Pryor’s legal posse will have to decide whether the NFL’s implementation of a five-game suspension arising from actions allegedly taken by Pryor when he was neither a NFL player or potential draftee, was made to intentionally cause NFL teams to either not draft Pryor or draft Pryor as high as they would have.
Rosenhaus and Cornwell were correct in asserting that challenging the NFL’s sanction against Pryor at this stage would be a losing battle.
But what they didn’t point out, is that their patience in this situation creates a winning situation for Pryor–albeit while potentially extending the battle.
Pryor will either be drafted in the early rounds of the supplemental draft and reap the associated economic benefits.
Or, he will fall to the later rounds of the supplemental draft as a result of the NFL Commissioner’s institution of a landmark enforcement strategy and subsequently invoke his own landmark litigation in response.
The battle has just begun.