If Chad Kelly is going to convince teams his off-the-field issues are behind him, he'll have to do it somewhere other than the NFL Scouting Combine.
The league released its list of combine participants Wednesday, and Kelly is not one of the 15 quarterbacks scheduled to attend. In a peculiar circumstance, The Buffalo News has learned that Kelly at one time was invited, but that invitation was later rescinded by the NFL. Kelly's representatives, Duray Oubre and Vance McAllister of JPS Sports Management, appeared on Buffalo News sports reporter Tim Graham's radio show Wednesday night and confirmed that Kelly received an invitation Jan. 6, with the league going so far as booking his flight to Indianapolis.
Last Thursday, however, Kelly was informed that his invitation had been taken back by the NFL. The question now is simply, why?
"We have had no answer, no clarification," McAllister said, explaining that Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, has left them voicemails saying he will not discuss the details of the decision. "So with that being said, what we want to know is what has Chad done? He was obviously good enough for an invite. He was obviously good enough up to the point of two weeks ago, booking his flight and getting an assigned number for the combine, being ready to participate."
A St. Joe's graduate who finished his college career at Ole Miss, Kelly is recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that was performed Nov. 14. He might not have been able to take part in on-field drills when the combine is held in a couple weeks.
But it would have been a valuable opportunity for him to meet with teams and explain his numerous off-field issues, which include being dismissed from Clemson earlier in his college career, as well as an arrest in Buffalo after being kicked out of a bar. He was also part of a brawl that erupted during a St. Joe's-Timon football game in the fall, when his younger brother took a vicious hit along the sideline for the Marauders.
"You've got to be honest with them, first of all," Kelly told The Buffalo News' Vic Carucci last month at the Senior Bowl, regarding what his message to teams will be. "But you've got to own up to your mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, but it's about how you learn from them and if you make the same mistake twice.
"And me, personally, all those mistakes happened and I'm through that stage. I was young, I was stupid, but now this is a grown-man business and I have to treat every day and approach every day as this is a job. This is a 'suit' job."
Kelly will still be able to meet with teams at Ole Miss' Pro Day, and on pre-draft visits, should any NFL teams extend the offer to him, but won't be able to do it in a place all 32 teams are gathered. Organizers of the combine have increasingly chosen not to invite players with checkered backgrounds, and that would seem to be the reasoning applied here.
Vincent sent a memo to teams recently outlining the participation policy for prospects.
"Draft-eligible prospects will not be permitted to participate in any aspect of the combine if a background check reveals a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving violence or use of a weapon, domestic violence, sexual offense and/or sexual assault," that memo reads. "The NFL also reserves the right to deny participation of any prospect dismissed by their university or the NCAA."
"The issue here is that Chad has not repeated those mistakes so it has not become habit," McAllister said. "So why is the NFL -- just give us some clarification. Just give us an answer of what policy did he violate? Because the purpose of a policy is to obey them and rule by them. Well, it seems like this is one of those cases where the NFL and Troy Vincent have decided again to not gather all the facts and make a decision, shoot from the hip, and we cannot get a clarification as to why. Chad is being singled out and being made example of, for what?"
Kelly is ranked as the ninth-best quarterback prospect in the 2017 class by CBSsports.com, with a sixth-round draft projection. Graham reported that three different NFL general managers reached out to him Wednesday to express disappointment that Kelly apparently will not be able to participate in the combine. In addition to the on-field workouts and interviews with teams, prospects also go through thorough medical exams, the results of which are given to all 32 teams.
McAllister said that until the league offers Kelly some explanation for why he is no longer welcome, he plans to be in Indianapolis.
"Chad is willing to accept the consequences for the behavior that he's done," he said. "We've never tried to hide that or run from that. But it's about time that somebody told the truth and the story about what's going on, and let's let the NFL teams decide if they want to take a quarterback that was one of the few quarterbacks that have beaten Nick Saban, if we want to talk about the on-the-field stuff and what he's done.
"And if we want to talk about what happened to him at Clemson, that's fine, we'll discuss that. But let's not give the man the right to talk to 32 teams and get an interview for a job."
News Sports Reporter Tim Graham contributed to this report.