Thursday, April 22, 2004

Clarett or no Clarett, NFL teams are ready

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - While Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams await word from the Supreme Court on whether they will be in this weekend's NFL draft, scouts, coaches and general managers are ready for whatever decision comes down.

"I think everybody has their boards set," said Gil Brandt, an NFL draft consultant. "They put Williams in there, they put Clarett in there. And if the ruling is overturned and their choice comes up, that's when they pick one of them."

Clarett's lawyer expects Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to rule before Saturday on whether the former Ohio State tailback and Williams, a former Southern California wide receiver, can enter.

Clarett appealed a stay issued Monday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, putting a hold on a lower-court ruling that said the NFL can't force players to wait three years after high school before turning pro.

Clarett, 20 and out of high school two years, would be eligible for the draft next year under the current rule. He dropped out of classes at Ohio State after the winter quarter.

Williams, who played two seasons for USC, declared for the draft after a lower court ruled in Clarett's favor.

The legal wrangling has not forced teams to make dramatic changes.

"We processed it. We did the information. We hung them on the board," Buffalo Bills assistant general manager and chief scout Tom Modrak said. "Now if they're not there, they're not there."

Ginsburg is not bound by a deadline, even though the NFL draft begins Saturday. She can make a decision on her own or can refer the issue to the entire Supreme Court. On Wednesday she asked the NFL to file a response to Clarett's appeal by today.

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