In Jeremiah Masoli's Case, It's Not About Practice, It's About Principle

Kimberley NashSenior Writer IApril 6, 2010

TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 21:  Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli #8 of the Oregon Ducks scrambles with the ball during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on November 21, 2009 in Tucson, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Wildcats 44-41 in second overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jeremiah Masoli, the recently-suspended quarterback for the Oregon Ducks, was on the practice fields last week. He was taking snaps and delivering passes to the first unit. Although his participation was limited, he was still actively involved and this is perplexing, given the length of his suspension.

For those who may not be aware, Jeremiah Masoli pleaded guilty to misdemeanor burglary charges on March 12, 2010, and he was suspended by Chip Kelly for the entirety of next season. He will not be the starting quarterback for the Ducks, and he will not be a reserve. He is effectively going to be a non-factor, so, why is he taking snaps?

On the one hand, it’s somewhat commendable that he would still want to show up and work with the team even though he won’t be allowed to suit up come fall. However, the work that is being done right now should be given to those who can make an impact—Nate Costa and Darron Thomas.

What does it say to those guys, who are actively competing for the starting QB spot, that their coach is willing to lessen their reps in favor of someone who won’t be a factor until 2011?

Should it make them angry? Uneasy? Bitter? Is that what Chip Kelly is trying to accomplish? Does he feel that by keeping Masoli in the mix, he effectively will be able to inspire his QBs to battle with more ferocity? Could it just be a ploy to bring out the best in all involved?

There is no real way to know what coach Kelly’s intentions may be, but the fact of the matter is, he should not allow Masoli to be on the field, actively practicing. It serves no purpose other than to be a distraction to those who are prepping for the season.

Neither Nate Costa nor Darron Thomas should have to deal with the added questions and scrutiny that comes from being in a battle that has the ex-starter standing in their line of vision. The only purpose Masoli should serve right now is a supportive one. He should be toting the clipboard and aiding his teammates in their playbook knowledge—period.

Masoli made his bed and he should rest uneasy in it, otherwise, where is the real punishment? By Chip Kelly allowing him to participate, he sends Masoli the message that we are “waiting on you,” and that won’t inspire anything in any one of his players.

Should players who are suspended be allowed to practice with their teams? Yes, if the suspension is short (one to three games). In those cases, adjustments to the amount of reps the suspended player gets should be made to accommodate his backup but he shouldn’t be shut out of practicing altogether

LaMichael James is suspended for one game. He is going to be the team’s starting tailback following his suspension so he should continue to get a significant number of reps. Why? Because he needs to be ready for the season and there is little chance that he would have been unseated had he never had the off-field issue.

University of Georgia quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, was in the heat of a QB battle when he was charged with underage drinking. Although Coach Richt suspended him for the first game of the season, he is still taking as many snaps as his counterparts. Richt acknowledged that these could lessen as the team gets into summer and fall practices but, for now, he just didn’t see a need to taper Mettenberger’s development.

Suspended players should be allowed to practice in most cases and there is nothing wrong with deferring to the coaches’ judgment in each situation. However, if the suspension is going to last the entirety of the season, then perhaps that player would be better served filling a lesser role.