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Report: Clarett ruled draft eligible

According to a report from the Associated Press U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin has ruled that suspended Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett is eligible for the NFL draft and ordered the league to allow the former Buckeye to enter the April selection process.

The Judge ruled Thursday that the league's rule stating that a player must be out of high school for three years in order to be draft eligible violates antitrust laws.

Clarett was a key part of Ohio State's 2002 national championship team as a freshman, but did not play last season after being suspended for accepting improper benefits.

"The NFL has not justified Clarett's exclusion by demonstrating that the rule enhances competition," Scheindlin said in her 70-page ruling. "Indeed, Clarett has alleged the very type of injury – complete bar to entry into the market for this services – that the antitrust laws are designed to prevent."

The ruling, if not successfully appealed by the NFL, would allow Clarett to join a list of 41 underclassmen that have already declared for the April 24-25 selection weekend.

Coaching carousel

With all the head coaching jobs already filled at this point it appears that the Patriots will have coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel back for the 2004 season. But it looks like that won't be the case for the rest of the staff.

According to a report in today's Oakland Tribune the Oakland Raiders are interested in talking to Patriots defensive backs coach Eric Mangini about becoming the defensive coordinator on new Head Coach Norv Turner's staff. Citing a NFL source, the story says the Raiders are targeting Mangini as the top candidate to replace current coordinator Chuck Bresnahan who is under contract but is not expected to remain as defensive coordinator.

Mangini's contract with the Patriots expires this month.

It also appears that New England will lose quarterbacks coach John Hufnagel. The New York Giants filed a formal request earlier this week to speak with Hufnagel about the role of offensive coordinator under new head coach Tom Coughlin and received permission to do so yesterday. According to the New York Post Hufnagel is expected to be named as the team's offensive coordinator this week.

Notes

The Baltimore Ravens named former Giants head coach Jim Fassel as a senior consultant. … The Arizona Cardinals terminated the contract of quarterback Jeff Blake. … ESPN has closed the door on "Playmakers", a fictional series that centered around a professional football team that dealt with numerous issues such as drugs, sex and violence. While the show drew solid ratings and critical acclaim, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue had openly criticized the show's storylines and characterizations of professional football players and in the end ESPN (along with its parent company Disney and sister network ABC) decided that its otherwise solid relationship with the NFL was more valuable than the series itself. "Many considerations went into this decision, not the least of which was the reaction from a longtime and valued partner," ESPN executive VP of programming and production Mark Shapiro told the New York Daily News. "We are proud of the show on many levels."

Various wire services contributed to this report.

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