It's happened before and as long as the league rule is in place it will continue to happen when OTAs begin for the Bills later today and for other NFL teams. Buffalo's second-round draft choice Jairus Byrd will miss all of the team's OTAs due to the final exam schedule at his university.
Final exams at the University of Oregon do not begin until June 8 and run through June 12. The NFL has a rule working in conjunction with the NCAA that states the following.
"If final examinations at a player's school conclude after May 16, the player may not participate in any activities other than the three-day minicamp until after the player's final day of examinations."
Buffalo's OTAs run up until June 8 with their mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 9-11, meaning Byrd would miss all of the workouts between now and the mandatory minicamp. Naturally missing practice time is not sitting well with the second-round pick.
"I think just like anybody he's a competitive individual, so he wants to be here when his team is here," said Bills defensive backs coach George Catavolos. "But he has an obligation to get his degree. These are the way the rules are and you have to abide by them."
It's a tough situation for Byrd, who on top of adjusting to the pro game is also making a position change. Nevertheless, Byrd is viewed as a legitimate challenger for the starting free safety job.
Knowing the situation Byrd was facing Bills defensive backs coach George Catavolos equipped the rookie with everything that he could before he left One Bills Drive following rookie camp.
"He has some material that we gave him about our system and the defensive terminology, some of the basic defenses and what his assignments are and our techniques," said Catavolos. "We send him stuff periodically. Once every week we try to test him on terminology and things of that nature as far as approach on the field. Before he left we talked about specific drills that he can work on to prepare himself for camp in July."
Catavolos has been through this process before with rookies as Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty had a late final exam schedule coming from Ohio State in 2006. Whitner, much like Byrd was a high pick, but he too had a good head for the game and wound up being a major contributor as a rookie despite missing the spring workouts.
While Catavolos admits Byrd will probably be a bit behind the curve when he finally reports to the team, he's confident the rookie will assimilate quickly to the scheme.
"He's a very bright young man," Catavolos said. "He has excellent football instincts. I think it will be a learning process, but the one major advantage we have is we have five preseason games instead of four so we'll be looking to get him a lot of playing time in there and see how he progresses."
Undrafted rookie kicker/punter Danny Urrego is also facing the same circumstances. Portland State has final exams that run through June 11.
Even if a player withdraws from classes he still may not take part in NFL team activities until the exam schedule at his university concludes according to the wording of the rule.
Two other Bills' rookies would have also fallen under this category had they not already been graduate students. Second-round pick Andy Levitre and undrafted rookie John Faletoese both have late exam schedules at their universities as well, but both are graduate students so they are exempt from the final exam rule and can report to the club any time after May 16.