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Monday, November 19, 2001
NFL has no record of Chiefs auditioning Hutchinson

By Chris Mortensen and Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

As reported by ESPN.com last week, former Stanford quarterback and current St. Louis Cardinals minor league pitcher Chad Hutchinson will audition on Tuesday for a select group of NFL scouts, as he considers his career options.

But it turns out that Tuesday's workout at the University of California-San Diego, a session expected to be viewed by representatives of 8-10 invited franchises, actually will mark the second time Hutchinson has displayed his talents for NFL evaluation.

League sources confirmed that Hutchinson, who bypassed his final two years of NCAA football eligibility to sign a four-year contract with the Cardinals in 1998, clandestinely worked out for representatives of the Kansas City Chiefs in recent weeks. Contributing to the intrigue is that the Chiefs, who have watched starter Trent Green struggle though an interception-filled season and might be in the market for a quarterback, failed to report the workout to the league office.

It is league policy that all such auditions be formally reported to NFL personnel officials. Failure to do so isn't typically considered a serious oversight, but the league could take some action, especially if NFL officials conclude that the Chiefs purposely attempted to circumvent the rules.

Two teams confirmed to ESPN.com on Monday that they have documented evidence of the audition, which they say was conducted by Lynn Stiles, director of football operations for the Chiefs. It is not known if the teams have advised league officials of the possible infraction, but the NFL acknowledged Monday it has no record of a workout.

A source with knowledge of Hutchinson's workout for the Chiefs said the quarterback appeared to be "pretty rusty" from his long hiatus from football.

Hutchinson, 24, started 23 games for Stanford in 1996 and '97, and completed 379 of 627 passes for 4,235 yards, with 22 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He was the most valuable player in the '96 Sun Bowl game and, at 6-feet-5 and 225 pounds, has prototype size, pocket stature and arm strength. When he departed Stanford, football coach Tyrone Willingham allowed Hutchinson "very definitely" would have been a high-round pick in the NFL if he had continued his football career.

Instead he was chosen by the baseball Cardinals in the second round of the '98 draft, the 48th prospect selected overall, and signed a four-year, $3.5 million contract that included a $2.4 million signing bonus. Hutchinson had been chosen by the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the '95 draft, but declined the team's $1.5 million signing bonus offer so that he could attend Stanford and play both sports.

Hutchinson spent his first three baseball seasons in the minor leagues, where he posted impressive strikeout totals at every level but also exhibited long bouts of wildness, then made the Cardinals' opening-day roster in 2001. His stay in the major leagues, though, was brief, as he appeared in just three games and pitched only four innings.

Once groomed to be St. Louis' closer of the future, he was 0-3 with an ERA of 24.75, and he gave up nine hits, six walks and 11 earned runs. Hutchinson returned to the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, in April.

He immediately moved into the starting rotation at Memphis, then to the bullpen later in the year, but finished the season on the disabled list. It marked the second straight year in which he spent time on the disabled list with soreness in his right elbow.

Because of his time away from football, Hutchinson would not have to be drafted, and instead a team could simply sign him as a free agent. Any team signing him, though, would have to count Hutchinson against its rookie pool allocation.

Another scenario is that Hutchinson could sign a practice squad contract for this year, which would permit him about six weeks of exposure to an NFL atmosphere, and also provide the club a chance to evaluate him in a structured football environment.