NEW ORLEANS (AP) Given the legal uncertainty surrounding offensive tackle La'el Collins, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said he could not say he would even take the former LSU standout in the last round of the NFL draft on Saturday.
Payton isn't alone.
When Baton Rouge police acknowledged this week that they have asked to speak with the All-Southeastern Conference lineman in the shooting death of a 29-year-old pregnant woman, NFL teams apparently became wary of risking a high draft pick on him.
Collins, once seen as a likely first-round selection, has not been named as even a person of interest - never mind a suspect - in any crime.
Still, Payton said he didn't know that the Saints would consider drafting him at all ''until we had more clarity.''
''One of the things I said (Friday) morning was, `Man, we're right down the road. Are we able to get some information the other teams don't have yet?''' Payton added. ''And so I haven't had that or gotten that information yet to answer (the question of making Collins a late-round draft choice) as a yes.''
Authorities in Baton Rouge have said they want to speak with Collins because, in their investigation into the shooting death of Brittney Mills, they learned that Collins knew the woman, whose infant was born alive but died on Friday. Police have not established who fathered the infant.
The timing of the investigation was particularly inopportune for Collins, coming just days before the draft.
''It's unusual, the circumstances surrounding his week,'' Payton said. ''That's something I think that a lot of teams looked at the same way.
''This is significant, and there's just a lack of information right now,'' Payton said. ''With what we know now, or what we don't know, we'd be hard-pressed to make a decision like that. I think that's just being honest.''
Collins tried to pull out of the draft shortly before it started, asking if he could instead enter the supplementary draft in hopes that he would be cleared by then. But the NFL denied that request.
Now it is possible that Collins will choose to sit out pro football for a year instead of signing a contract as a late-round draft choice or as a 2015 undrafted free agent, which under the NFL's collective bargaining agreement would pay far less than the first-round contract Collins expected. If he chooses that route, he could re-enter the 2016 draft.
''We're going to review all of our options and do what's best for the young man,'' said Collins' agent, Deryk Gilmore. ''Everything is in play. We're going to consider every option that is best for our client.''