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Publish Date: 5/21/2005

‘Changed’ Clarett impresses Broncos


ENGLEWOOD — The old Maurice Clarett would’ve complained about running extra laps after practice.

The new Clarett enjoys the additional work.

It’s funny how two years without football can change your perspective.

“I appreciate it more,”

said Clarett, the third-round pick of the Broncos in last month’s NFL Draft. “You can ask me to do whatever.”

As everyone knows by know, Clarett has had quite a checkered past. The former Ohio State running back has falsified a police report, made overtures that Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel arranged for him to get passing grades and challenged the NFL ruling that you had to be three years

removed from your high school graduation to declare for the draft.

But not having football the past two years has put

him on the straight and narrow. He’s anxious to make an impression with Denver coach Mike Shanahan and his new teammates.

So far during quarterback camp, the Broncos have liked what they’ve seen.

“He’s had an excellent week,” Shanahan said Friday.

What’s impressed Shanahan the most is Clarett’s work ethic.

“He’s been working his rear end off since he’s been here,” Shanahan said. “He didn’t even want to go to the rookie symposium because he didn’t want to miss workouts for that week. I had to explain to him that this is not America in the NFL, and this was something you have to go to. You don’t have a choice.

“From a football standpoint, I’ve been very pleased. I’m very encouraged with what I’ve seen and how he’s handled himself.”

Clarett’s indoctrination into the NFL has been overwhelming at times. The playbook is like reading the Russian version of “War and Peace.”

“The terminology is a lot different,” Clarett said. “So picking up the blitz schemes and learning who to block, that gave me a little trouble the first day. But after that, I went back in my room and studied the plays.

“I’m moving forward every day.”

Yet his past still catches up with him. This week, the NCAA said it was trying to track down Clarett to talk with him about its investigation into Ohio State. The NCAA outlined nine violations against the Buckeyes on Monday but couldn’t verify Clarett’s earlier claim that coaches arranged for him to get passing grades.

Clarett had no idea the NCAA was trying to contact him.

“I don’t even know what’s going on,” he said. “Jake (Plummer) asked me about it (Thursday), and I told him, ‘I don’t even watch television, man.’

“I don’t even want to deal with it. My memory of Ohio State was that we won the national championship. I’ll always be a fan of them. I wish them all the luck in the world, and I hope they get through all these problems.”

Clarett has felt the eyes of teammates on him. He feels almost like a carnival act.

“Everybody’s interested in what I can do,” he said. “After we ran a couple of plays, it went out the door. They weren’t looking at me like I was out for two years; it was kind of like, ‘You’re part of the group now; either you help us or you can get out of here.’”

Given the fact that he’s only a rookie, Clarett doesn’t know what to expect this season. He’s taking the stance of whatever happens, happens.

“If it’s my fate to sit on the bench this year, then I’ll learn,” he said. “If it’s my fate to be in there and start and rush for 3,000 yards ...”

Three thousand yards?

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Clarett said with a smile. “As long as I work hard and do everything I’m supposed to do every day, I think I’ll be all right.”

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