Maurice Clarett stiff-armed another commitment, reinforcing doubts about his reliability and fitness with the NFL scouting combine three weeks away.
The elusive, reclusive former Ohio State running back had been scheduled to participate in the college football all-star challenge, an eight-player skills event taped Monday by Fox TV at Dolphins Stadium for broadcast Saturday.
But he recently hired a new agent, Steve Feldman, who told organizers late last week that Clarett was pulling out.
“It was completely my decision,” Feldman said. “He wanted to be there, but from a safety standpoint, it doesn’t seem logical to take a chance that he might tweak something or pull something or damage something that would prevent him from showing off his stuff at the combine.”
At the combine a year ago, Clarett showed up overweight and declined to work out. He’ll be eligible for the draft in April after his legal bid to enter the NFL last year was overturned by an appeals court. He hasn’t played since being suspended by Ohio State following the 2002 season.
Feldman said Clarett is healthy and working with a private trainer but declined to say where.
“This guy will blow people’s minds at the combine,” Feldman said. “He is in fantastic shape. That’s why it seems ludicrous to jeopardize it at this point.”
Following the combine in Indianapolis, which begins Feb. 23, Clarett will likely take part in two or three private workouts, Feldman said.
Organizers of the all-star challenge said Clarett had accepted an invitation to the event earlier in January before hiring Feldman.
“Unfortunately Maurice is carrying forward his tradition of not honoring commitments and being very unpredictable,” said Dan Jones, vice president of Intersport, the company producing the show. “We were excited about giving him an opportunity to change the public perception, and unfortunately he has done the exact opposite and reinforced it.”
Players participating included Aaron Rodgers, Jason White, Carnell Williams and Braylon Edwards, who shrugged off Clarett’s absence.
“To be invited to something like this, I thought it would be something good for him,” Edwards said. “Clarett’s Clarett.”
“I would be curious to just meet him and see where his head’s at,” Williams said.
Organizers disputed Feldman’s contention that Clarett would have risked injury by participating. The event measures agility, speed and strength, and Jones said model Marisa Miller — who will appear on the show — tested the course without incident.
“If a supermodel can run through the course in high heels and not get injured, I’m pretty sure Maurice Clarett can do it without getting injured,” Jones said.
But with the combine approaching, Feldman said Clarett can’t risk even a minor injury, unlike other NFL prospects.
“The other guys have film. They’ve played the last two years. They can afford a tweak or pull,” Feldman said. “He can’t. He’s got to be ready.”
Feldman’s clients include New England Patriots Corey Dillon and Rodney Harrison. Clarett has also retained as an attorney David Kenner, who has represented Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight.
Clarett rushed for 1,237 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman in 2002, leading Ohio State to the national championship. He was then suspended for lying to investigators during an NCAA investigation of allegations he received improper benefits from a family friend.
“He’s going to convince people he has learned a great deal in the last year and a half,” Feldman said.