Last October, the NFL wisely scuttled the so-called May 16 rule. This year, draft picks from schools that finish the academic year after the middle of May will be able to participate in offseason workouts.
The new rule allows rookies at schools with final exams concluding on or after May 16 to participate in the offseason program as of May 16 if the player: (1) provides documentation that he has completed all necessary requirement for all courses in which he was enrolled; (2) is permitted to return to school for any final exams in non-online courses, if he has remained enrolled; (3) is permitted enough time to complete final exams for online courses; or (4) is no longer enrolled in school.
For many players, item number 4 will be the key. If the player has left school (and plenty do so that they can focus on draft preparation), the player won’t be barred by an arbitrary, outdated rule that was implemented to keep teams from pressuring players to do that which they’ve already done: Left school to begin their professional careers.
The change came not long after the NFL offered a clumsy defense to its continuation. To the league’s credit, the right decision was made.
And while the rule in part helps the teams by giving them access to early-round picks (like Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, who otherwise would have been prevented from joining the Browns), it also gives late-round picks and undrafted players a way to participate in offseason workouts, allowing them to avoid falling woefully behind in the effort to compete fair and square for a roster spot.