Is it right for scholarship players to sit out of their team’s bowl game in order to stay healthy and focus on the upcoming NFL Draft? The decision not to participate by players such as LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, and Baylor’s Shock Linwood have many asking this question.
A definitive answer in the negative comes from Miami’s Mark Richt. The Hurricanes coach told reporters, “I think it’s sad, personally. Football is the greatest team sport there is, and I think until the season is over, you should be with your team, really and truly.
“You can take out whether I want a guy to stay to help us win and all that. Football is the greatest game. It’s the greatest game because it’s a team game. Everybody is counting on each other.”
Reporters asked Richt for his thoughts on former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who suffered a serious knee injury in last year’s Fiesta Bowl that cost him millions of dollars in the draft, but yet said he “had no regrets” about playing the bowl game. Richt seemed to concur with that sentiment, “Football is football. Something could happen Game 1. What? Are you going to quit the team Game 1?
“I bet their teammates are like, ‘I understand. I understand.’ Maybe face to face. But I bet you when they lay their head on the pillow, they’re like, ‘Why is that guy doing that? We’re a team. We paid the price together.’ It’s sad.”
On the other hand, Alabama head coach Nick Saban doesn’t see the players at fault for the current situation. Saban told reporters, “We kind of created this trend. I said as soon as we had a playoff, we were going to minimize the importance of all the other bowl games. I’m not saying whether it’s good or bad, it kind of is what it is.
“I don’t know where all this is going, but I don’t think it’s going to change. Is it good? Probably not. But you can’t blame the kids. It’s a product of what we created.”
The “kids,” in this case, stand to make a lot of money in the NFL if they can stay healthy. According to ESPN, “Fournette, the No. 1 prospect on ESPN analyst Todd McShay’s board for the 2017 NFL draft, has been hampered by a lingering ankle injury for the majority of the season and says he’s now 85 to 90 percent healthy.
“McCaffrey has a disability policy that would pay him $5 million tax-free if he became injured and unable to play, a source told ESPN’s Darren Rovell. He also has a $3 million loss of value policy and could start collecting if an injury caused him to slip past the 40th overall pick, according to the source.”
Richt and the Hurricanes take on West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl on December 28th.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn