GREEN BAY – The silly NFL rule never was mentioned on Kevin King’s college recruiting trips, not that it would’ve mattered.
When King faxed in his national letter of intent to the University of Washington, he didn’t realize his signature would forfeit a chance to get a head start on his NFL career. The league mandates players attending universities on quarter semesters must stay at campus until the school year concludes.
It kept King, the Green Bay Packers' first draft pick, on campus until Tuesday’s start of minicamp.
No, college coaches didn’t warn that the school’s academic calendar could create a problem in the future. King said he has no regrets.
“In the big scheme of things,” King said, “me not being here for a few weeks is something real small. It definitely wouldn’t have altered my decision of where I was going to school. It wasn’t something brought up at recruiting, but it wouldn’t have made a difference.”
It is small in the grand scheme of things, or else the Packers wouldn’t have drafted him. That doesn’t mean the rule’s lack of compromise makes sense. Its purpose is to allow players close to earning their college degrees the chance to finish classes after being drafted. The rule only holds players back a month. Most are able to participate in minicamp.
King is a good example of why the rule could use some flexibility.
In his case, King said he didn’t take classes this semester, choosing instead to focus on his pre-draft workouts. In practice, it’s no different than a student spending an entire semester working on an internship. King said he would like to graduate at a later date – he’s a little more than one semester away from his degree – but understands football is his first profession out of college. Naturally, he wanted to give it his focus.
With no classes to attend, King was stuck on campus without actually going to school.
“It’s confusing,” King said, “especially since I wasn’t even in school. I was just at home. I think it’s a good rule for guys who were in school and that close to their degree and are going to get their degree. The fact that I wasn’t in school made it a little confusing, but it’s over now.”
The Packers worked around the rule as best they could. They aren’t new to drafting players at universities on the quarter system. A year ago, first-round pick Kenny Clark was drafted out of UCLA, putting him in the same situation King faced this offseason.
King, an American Ethnic Studies major, was in frequent contact with Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt over the past month. He reviewed the team’s eight installation phases while he was away, trying to avoid falling too far behind. His first chance to take all that knowledge onto the field with veterans came Tuesday.
“It’s definitely different putting those calls to live reps,” King said, “and actually getting out there on the field and performing those calls. It’s more than just a written quiz or (Whitt) asking me would I have gotten this. I actually have to analyze it and do it as it comes.”
The Packers will ease King back onto the field. He participated only in position drills Tuesday, no team reps. It’s unclear whether King will get team reps this week, or if they’ll have to wait until training camp.
But the goal is for him to be ready to go come August.
“We’re going to bring him along at a pace and see how he does,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’ll talk about tomorrow’s practice and do the same for Thursday. I don’t think it’s smart, regardless of who the player is, to throw him right out there and think he’s going to pick up where he left off in rookie camp.”