Friday, May 04, 2007

Still Walking? | by Jay

Darius Walker has not signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears yet -- or with any team, for that matter. Strange; the Bears' signing was previously reported by many sources, including the athletic department itself. A deal that was in place has apparently fallen apart, according to today's SBT.

A sidelight to the story was a quote from Jimmy Walker, Darius' dad, that was printed on Tuesday. Jeff Carroll of the SBT had interviewed Jimmy, who expressed surprise and disappointment at the fact that Darius wasn't drafted. In the article, Carroll raised the question of why Charlie hadn't appeared at Darius' pro announcement presser, and whether Charlie's prepared statement expressing "disappointment" meant anything more than simply that ND was sad to see him go. When asked whether he thought Charlie Weis had backed Darius enough in the draft process, Jimmy Walker replied, "I have no comment on it." This seemed, to me, a loaded answer (and a loaded question, for that matter), and it suggested that the Walkers (or Jimmy, at least) thought Charlie had something to do with Darius' draft day denouement.

In today's follow-up, Darius clarified his own sentiments:

Walker said that he believes ND coach Charlie Weis, though disappointed in his decision to exit early, supported him in discussions with NFL contacts. And he believes Rosenhaus, his agent, has been doing his best to represent his current interests.
I know disappointment is running pretty high in the Walker house right now, but there are, unfortunately, some legitimate football knocks against Darius that explain why he doesn't have a home in the NFL yet.

By the way, since he wasn't drafted, could Darius return to play another year at Notre Dame? According to the NCAA, players can declare for the draft and maintain eligibility under certain conditions:
Division I-A and I-AA football student-athletes are permitted to enter the NFL draft one time without jeopardizing eligibility in that sport, provided the student-athlete is not drafted by any team in that league and the student-athlete declares his intention to resume intercollegiate football participation within 72 hours after the NFL draft declaration date. Further, the 72-hour period begins at 12:01 a.m., after the NFL draft declaration deadline. This date is traditionally in mid-January.

In the above circumstance, the individual may not have an oral or written agreement with an agent or not received any benefits from an agent in order to return to or enroll in an NCAA institution.
So, by signing with an agent, Darius closed himself off from that option. Given his pre-draft assessments, I'm sure he didn't think he'd have to fall back on it, though.