was the third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, and he was eager to get to work with the 49ers right away. But NFL rules put an obstacle in his way.
The league doesn’t allow any rookie to participate in practices until his school year is complete. That’s true whether the player is still a student or not, and in the case of Thomas, it restricts him for long after the draft: Thomas went to Stanford, which stays in session until June, which means he was on the outside looking in when the 49ers were having Organized Team Activities.
Thomas said on PFT Live that he hated being kept away from his team’s practices, and he noted that the rule hurts undrafted rookies even worse than it hurts him — Thomas knows his roster spot is assured, but undrafted players are missing valuable opportunities to show what they can do, opportunities that won’t come back.
“It was so frustrating,” Thomas said. “It was extremely annoying. The rule doesn’t make sense. I really hope they take it out for other athletes that have to go through it, especially those who weren’t draft picks because that hurts them even more, they can’t even show off at OTAs. So that hurts them even more. So I really hope they take this rule away and just let the guys go.”
The NFL says its rule is designed to keep players from dropping out of college, but players should be allowed to make that decision for themselves. If Thomas and other rookies want to get on the field with their teams, the league shouldn’t stop them.