Floyd’s clearance for summer drills another step in return

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In the doldrums of summer, any news on wide receiver Michael Floyd is big news, and yesterday Notre Dame football’s director of football media relations Brian Hardin supplied some headlines when he tweeted head coach Brian Kelly’s most recent comments on his suspended star receiver:

“Michael has made steady progress towards modifying his behavior and he may participate in the voluntary workouts being conducted by his teammates as well as the summer strength and conditioning program, if he so chooses,” Kelly said in a statement.

“However, Michael still has steps to take before he can be considered for reinstatement to our football team. If he meets the conditions I have outlined to him and he demonstrates improved decision-making skills, Michael will have the opportunity to rejoin the team for practices and games this fall. If he doesn’t meet every criteria given to him, Michael will not play for Notre Dame in 2011.”

And with that, a brouhaha begins.

For those looking to claim Notre Dame and Brian Kelly are short-shrifting the Golden Dome by adding some context to Notre Dame’s previously draconian disciplinary system, they’re given another clip of ammo. But for those that are looking for some common sense logic behind the announcement, here goes:

The idea of voluntary, players-only workouts is something that’s very hard for Notre Dame and the coaching staff to police by NCAA law. (Just ask Michigan.) Even if he wanted to, Kelly or the Irish athletic department couldn’t really keep someone out of those workouts, so the fact that they’ve said it’s okay, “if he so chooses” to participate, should tell you enough. Floyd working out with the team isn’t anybody’s call but Floyd, Harrison Smith, Dayne Crist and the rest of the leadership unit on the football team.

That said, if there’s one place where Kelly is making a statement, it’s that he’s allowed Floyd to join the team in the summer strength and conditioning program. Again, Floyd is still a scholarship athlete, and every scholarship athlete that’s on campus in the summer is expected to workout with the strength and conditioning team. But not every scholarship athlete is Notre Dame’s career leader in receiving touchdowns, so this is a another step toward reinstatement for Floyd.

But the bigger step is the legal hurdle that’s still in front of Floyd. According to the South Bend Tribune, Floyd’s attorney was in court today, requesting the case to be continued until June 29th, giving him time to work out a plea agreement on behalf of his client.

Kelly’s “all in or all out” edict for Floyd seems to have raised a few eyebrows and even given some people reason to believe Floyd’s return is all but a foregone conclusion. That assumption holds little water, especially when you do even the slightest bit of digging into the work Michael’s done since March.

If No. 3 is in uniform and on the field against South Florida on September 3rd, it’s because he’s done everything that’s been asked of him by his head coach, one of the only opinions that matter on the subject. Whether fans or writers feel that five months in purgatory is enough — that’s hardly the point. For Notre Dame, maintaining integrity will never come down to fan surveys or public opinion, and in taking the wait-and-see approach with one of the university’s most high-profile student-athletes, they’re making a decision on their own terms.

As the Irish football team begins to put in the offseason work that makes championship teams possible, they’ll have one of their leaders back in the fold. While it sounds like a broken record, whether Floyd stays with the team isn’t up to Brian Kelly, it’s up to No. 3 himself.