SEATTLE – Marcus Peters has played his last football game for the Washington Huskies, a development that might end up costing him a good bit of cash.
Peters, the Huskies’ fourth-year junior cornerback who many pundits project as a first-round NFL draft pick, has been dismissed from the UW program following several clashes with coach Chris Petersen and his first-year staff.
Petersen said on Thursday that “sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” explaining that “we have certain standards and operating procedures, and we’re trying to do something special here.”
He didn’t specify what triggered Peters’ dismissal. But a Seattle Times report indicated that Peters argued with coaches during UW’s game last week at Colorado and again during Wednesday’s practice, and was absent on Tuesday.
Peters, a native of Oakland who leads the Huskies with three interceptions and 10 passes defensed, was dismissed from the team on Wednesday night. He did not reply to a text message seeking comment.
“I know everybody wants the details and those things,” Petersen said. “We don’t go there. We can’t go there. But like I said, we wish him the best and it’s hard and painful.”
Petersen did imply that Peters’ dismissal is the culmination of several behavioral infractions, saying that “it’s never one thing. We’re not going to dismiss a guy because it’s one thing.”
Most notably, Petersen was suspended for Washington’s 44-19 win over Illinois earlier this season after being penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct the previous week against Eastern Washington, then throwing a tantrum on the sideline immediately after.
Peters appeared to head-butt an EWU player after the Huskies had stopped the Eagles on third down. Instead, the Eagles were awarded a first down after a 15-yard penalty against Peters, whom Petersen removed from the game. Eastern eventually scored a touchdown on that drive – UW won the game, 59-52 – and Petersen called the penalty “stupid” during his postgame remarks. Peters sat the rest of that game, did not practice the following week and did not suit up for the Illinois game.
Against Stanford on Sept. 27, Peters did not start, with Petersen saying afterward that “he just needs to take care around the ranch a little bit better, tighten up some details.”
And last season, after Petersen was hired but before he took full control of the program, Peters was suspended by interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo for the first quarter of UW’s Fight Hunger Bowl game against Brigham Young due to an academic issue.
Taken on their own, those infractions are relatively minor. But Petersen didn’t feel he could tolerate any more of them.
“When you feel like you just can’t work,” Petersen said, “you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Without Peters, the Huskies will start three true freshmen and a sophomore in their secondary against No. 18 UCLA on Saturday (4 p.m., FOX Sports 1). Naijiel Hale, a 5-foot-10, 171-pound, four-star recruit from Long Beach, California, will start in Peters’ place.
Hale has appeared in each of UW’s games this season, primarily on special teams. He has seven tackles.
Opposite Hale at the other cornerback spot will be Sidney Jones, another true freshman who moved into the starting lineup after redshirt freshman Jermaine Kelly broke his ankle prior to UW’s third game of the season.
“I think Naijiel has done a nice job all along,” Petersen said. “Every time we’ve put him in the game, he’s competed very well at a very high level.”
Peters, meanwhile, will likely begin preparing for the NFL draft and all it entails. He will almost certainly be invited to the NFL scouting combine, which begins Feb. 17 in Indianapolis.
Rob Rang, a draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, projected Peters as the No. 13 pick as recently as this week. But he said Thursday that Peters’ dismissal could change things.
The No. 13 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Aaron Donald, signed a four-year contract worth a little more than $10 million, including a signing bonus of nearly $5.7 million.
Players drafted later than the second round receive less than $1 million in signing-bonus money, and the total value of rookie contracts decreases accordingly.
That’s why Peters’ dismissal could have a big impact on his financial future.
“It’s a red flag to teams,” Rang said via telephone. “Obviously, the members of the University of Washington coaching staff aren’t necessarily the same guys that are going to be on an NFL staff, so teams are going to want to investigate Peters. But Coach Petersen is known as a bit of a player’s coach and somebody who can work with young people, so it’s alarming, frankly, and it’s something that absolutely could drop Peters’ draft stock.”
Petersen said Peters’ scholarship will be honored through the completion of his education, though a player with NFL aspirations isn’t likely to remain in school any longer than he has to.
Assuming Peters does declare for the draft, Petersen said he’ll “absolutely” put in a good word for Peters to NFL teams who call and inquire.
“Marcus’s got a lot of skill. I really do hope that he has a really good NFL career, there’s no doubt about that,” Petersen said. “And I think he can, and we wish him a lot of luck going in that direction.”
Rang said that if Petersen does make good on that statement, it could carry some positive weight.
“I think, certainly, when you’ve produced as many NFL players as Coach Petersen has, then whatever the coach says is definitely something that teams will take into account,” Rang said. “That said, actions speak louder than words. And the fact that Marcus Peters is no longer a member of the Huskies, despite his obvious talents, is a pretty bold statement.”
One that could have far-reaching consequences, both for the Huskies and their win-loss record this season, as well as for Peters’ draft status and subsequent financial situation.
“There’s just a lot of guys involved when you’re in charge of the team, and there’s 100 guys and all those things,” Petersen said. “What is best for us to do what we want to do? Like I said, we’re all trying to do something special and it takes everybody in and everybody rolling the same direction. That’s hard to get done. Hopefully, we can move forward.”
Christian Caple can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @ChristianCaple