Coach contradicts Emmitt Smith's support

Originally Published: September 26, 2003
ESPN.com news services

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Legendary running back Emmitt Smith said Maurice Clarett should get his wish to play in the NFL. Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden feels differently.

A day after Smith came out in support of Clarett's goal to enter the NFL draft a year early, the Buccaneers head coach said on ESPN Radio's The Dan Patrick Show that no player Clarett's age can handle life as a pro.

"I don't see how an 18 or 19 year old is ready for the NFL," he said. This is a year-round job and they've never been through that. Personally, I don't want any 18- or 19-year olds in my locker room. This won't end with Clarett ... if he comes in you will see a bunch of kids trying to do the same. This league is different, it's not the NBA or MLB."

On Thursday, Smith spoke openly about his belief that the NFL rule prohibiting players from entering the draft before they are three years out of high school in unfair.

"I think a man does have an opportunity to earn a living and shouldn't be restricted," Smith said Thursday after the Arizona Cardinals practice. "To be honest with you, I think the NCAA has a great racket going, and you can print that one."

Clarett, the suspended Ohio State running back, sued the NFL this week, asking a judge to throw out that draft restriction.

"He's a great talent. He's young. He feels like he should do it," Smith said. "Why should he be restricted?"

Clarett helped Ohio State win the national championship as a freshman last year but has been suspended for the coming season. He wants to be eligible for next year's NFL draft.

"When he gets here, he'll see what it's all about," Smith said. "I've seen grown men come in here and spend a day or two in training camp and made their mind up right then and there that football's not for them."

Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader, suggested that Clarett avoid the limelight.

"The only advice I can give him is to calm down some of this media attention," Smith said. "I think some of the attention he's getting is not positive in the public light."

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