Jaylon Ferguson is headed to the NFL’s combine next week after all.
USA TODAY Sports has learned that the star defensive end from Louisiana Tech, one of the top edge rushers in the upcoming NFL draft, has been re-invited to the combine for medical exams and team interviews — yet still prevented from on-the-field drills and testing — after Ferguson’s previous invitation was rescinded after an off-the-field issue was discovered during a background check.
The NFL’s change of heart — and tweaked policy — also clears the way for previously banned Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and Colorado State receiver Preston Williams to attend the combine that begins Tuesday in Indianapolis.
“Rather than having up to 32 teams travel individually in these cases, this is actually to accommodate the clubs, to frankly get the most important information — the medical exam — in one place,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told USA TODAY Sports.
Vincent recently informed clubs of the decision in a memo to general managers and head coaches, and maintained that in preventing on-field drills and testing, the players are still paying a price for off-field transgressions.
Ferguson, 6-5, 269, the NCAA’s all-time sack leader, is the most notable of the players who were previously uninvited due to a league policy that banned players who were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony charge that involved violence. Ferguson was found guilty of simple battery stemming from a fight at a McDonald’s during his freshman year at Louisiana Tech.
PLAYING TAG: One franchise tag candidate for (almost) every team
CUT CANDIDATES: Some starting QBs among players who could be released
FOOTBALL FIX: NFL news delivered to your inbox
“To me, what I’m hoping is that the NFL wants to celebrate the fact that a kid like Jaylon made a mistake when he was 18, and has made amends for it,” Ferguson’s agent, Peter Schaffer, told USA TODAY Sports. “He’s earned the right for a second chance. Instead of vilifying him, Jaylon wants people to see that you can earn a second chance. We’re glad the NFL sees that.”
The NFL — undoubtedly sensitive to perceptions of how it addresses violence by players — surely doesn’t view Ferguson’s case as a cause for celebration in the fashion that Schaffer suggests. Yet, as Vincent pointed out the practical efficiency for the medical exams is a compelling reason for the re-invitation.
Ironically, Schaffer also represents Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon, who wasn’t invited to the combine in 2017 because of his brutal assault on a woman, captured on videotape, during his freshman year at Oklahoma. Mixon wound up getting drafted in the second round, but his absence from the combine prompted criticism from team decision-makers who preferred that he would have at least been in the mix during the combine evaluations.
Of course, NFL teams will only get a portion of the evaluation of Ferguson. For a more complete picture that includes workouts, timing and testing, they’ll still have to travel to Ruston, La., for Louisiana Tech’s pro day on March 19.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
If you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our new Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders.