As offseason suspensions go, the open-ended nature of the "indefinite" suspension is a coach's best friend. On the front end, the uncertainty lends the "tough love" routine a pretty credible air of toughness: "If this misguided young man doesn't follow our exact specifications for reinstatement, he may never be back." Later, on the back end, it doesn't actually cost the coach anything when he decides the specifications have been met just in time for the offending player to rejoin the team for the season itself. They can have their disciplinary cake and eat it, too.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly had already absolved himself of that charge to some degree by extending star cornerback/kick returner Cliff Harris' suspension for racking up thousands of dollars in unpaid traffic fines through at least the opening-night showdown with LSU. But the tension increased ever so slightly Monday when Kelly confirmed on the Ducks' first day of preseason practice that there's still no date for Harris' return to the game day lineup. "The first step is to come back with the team and start practicing and doing those things," Kelly told the Eugene Register-Guard. "But there has been no determination by our coaching staff in terms of playing time as we get going towards fall."
Boilerplate coachspeak, maybe. But we already know that Kelly has a killer poker face when it comes to extended discipline, based on his willingness to levy season-long bans against two former Duck stars, running back LeGarrette Blount and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, for exploding into a post-game rampage and allegedly robbing a frat house, respectively. (Blount was granted a pardon near the end of the 2009 season, ultimately sitting out ten full games; Masoli made the decision a little easier by getting arrested again.) What we don't know at this point is whether Harris' absence is strictly punitive, or stems from any lingering uncertainty about his eligibility for borrowing a rental car from a university employee. The NCAA doesn't care how fast you drive or the status of your license, but it does care about the appearance of improper benefits, and the results of Oregon's internal investigation haven't been released one way or another.
Then again, the compliance department has been kind of busy with other things lately. In the meantime, one of the most explosive players in the country remains on the outside looking in.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.