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Clarett says he needs time to get in shape

INDIANAPOLIS -- Maurice Clarett was quicker and more evasive with questions from Thursday than he will be for NFL scouts this week.

That's because the running back who won his challenge to the
NFL's draft system announced he would skip Friday's workouts at the
scouting combine and wait six more weeks before giving scouts a
chance to evaluate his skills on the field.

The reason: he said he wanted more time to train after a
suspension cost him his entire sophomore season at Ohio State.

Not everyone accepted the explanation, which could lower his
position in the draft even more: the wait is clearly to get in
shape after he weighed in at 237 pounds. In fact, his
decision clearly antagonized a lot of the people he is supposed to
be impressing.

"That's a farce," Buffalo Bills general manager Tom Donahoe said.
"That was expected but that's ridiculous."

Clarett said he made the decision at the urging of his mother.

After beating the NFL in a courtroom twice this month to become eligible for the draft, Clarett, 20, will become the first true
sophomore in the NFL draft.

He weight is seven pounds more than he played at, and the 230 at which he was listed may have been questionable. He even
acknowledged he wasn't in top condition despite working out for the
past couple weeks.

Scouts wondered why Clarett didn't arrive for the weeklong
combine better prepared after missing an entire season and then
challenging the NFL's rule requiring underclassmen to complete
three years of school before declaring for the draft.

Clarett said simply that he wanted more time to train and that
he was scheduling a personal workout in Columbus, Ohio, the first
week of April.

"I'm kicking it in the next four weeks," Clarett said. "I
want to put myself in the best position possible."

It wasn't well received by those who wanted to see Clarett run.
It also raised questions about his attitude.

"I just want to see what he looks like," Detroit Lions
president Matt Millen said. "We've got to do our homework and he's
got to do his."

Clarett was grilled by reporters for about 15 minutes in a
preview than what he is likely to face later Thursday night when
teams begin interviewing players one-on-one. The NFL limits teams
to 60 interviews and Clarett said he expected to talk to all 32
teams.

He was asked repeatedly about his character, his medical
history, his durability, whether he was prepared physically and
mentally to jump to the NFL. He dodged a question about his
agent, saying he hadn't yet made a decision even though he is believed to
have chosen Jimmy Sexton.

And he promised to show a different side in the NFL.

"I think I'm going to keep my mouth shut at this level," he
said.

While teams hope to start getting more answers Thursday night,
the bigger issues may require more examination.

Doctors checked Clarett's left shoulder, which he hurt during
his record-setting freshman season with the Buckeyes.

He also had knee surgery that year and missed three
games and parts of two others because of the injuries. He
still set an Ohio State freshman record with 1,237 yards and 16
touchdowns.

Clarett explained the injuries by saying he played hard and was
working on his feet to avoid taking big hits.

As Clarett spoke, he smiled frequently and seemed to relish the
moment.

"I feel I've made a transition," he said. "I get to wake up
thinking about football and go to sleep thinking about football and
I'm in my world, really."

Now he must find a place to fit in.

Donahoe thinks that could be difficult. He didn't mince words
when asked to compare Clarett's uncertain future to that of Willis McGahee, who the Bills drafted in the first round last year despite
a knee injury that kept him out of all 16 games last year.

"Let's not put Clarett in the same category as McGahee,"
Donahoe said. "That's not fair to Willis. Willis attitude-wise and
character-wise, that's a big difference."