Pierce may have surgery in December

Updated: November 30, 2003, 8:33 PM ET
Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas fullback Mark Pierce "has made a commitment that he wants to go play professional football," Razorback coach Houston Nutt said Sunday, and won't be on the team for a bowl game.

"In order for him to do that, it is best -- I know in his mind and in his mother's mind -- that he just concentrates on that," Nutt said at his regular Sunday news conference.

Nutt said he was aware of Pierce's decision to enter the NFL draft as a junior before Friday's game with LSU, but "I just told him, for focus, it was best for his teammates and his team to wait."

"He is locked in. He is set. There is no convincing him the other way," Nutt said.

Pierce said Saturday he has an appointment on Monday at Fayetteville for an imaging scan on an injured shoulder. If surgery is needed, getting it done in December would allow Pierce to work out for professional scouts in February and March.

The past year has been a troubled one for Pierce. His father died suddenly last year following Arkansas' victory over LSU, and he took a leave of absence from the team in July, for unspecified personal reasons.

His status with the team this fall was uncertain until he showed up for drills in mid-August.

Then, misdemeanor charges were lodged against him, stemming from two separate incidents on Aug. 31. Police checking a bar for under-age drinkers said Pierce became belligerent with them as they questioned a woman nearby. That resulted in a disorderly conduct charge.

A third-degree battery charge was filed against Pierce after a man told police he had been struck in an altercation outside a liquor store, earlier the night of Aug. 31.

Nutt was asked Sunday if Pierce's troubles had made him less than welcome among his teammates.

"I don't want to get into that," the coach answered. "There was a little bit of that, but that is inside. I hope he can learn from a lot of mistakes that have happened."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press