To the surprise of few, Tuesday was home cooking day for two highly-touted quarterbacks that did themselves more harm than good last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Both Cam Newton of Auburn and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas worked out at the Pro Days in front of a slew of scouts, making much better impressions with the benefit of being in their home-field comfort zone and throwing to familiar receivers.
Newton conducted a 48-minute workout at the Tigers’ Pro Day. NFL Network reported that all 32 teams were present at the Pro Day, including five head coaches – Denver’s John Fox, Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt, Carolina’s Ron River, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis and Cleveland’s Pat Shurmer. Whisenhunt and Tennessee (which picks No. 8) offensive coordinator Chris Palmer asked for more throws from Newton during the workout to see specific types of throws of interest to them.
That list of coaches is impressive in one significant respect. They represent the teams with the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth picks in the draft. The only team in the top six picks that didn’t have their head coach in attendance was the Buffalo Bills (read into that what you will), although Bills GM Buddy Nix was in attendance. It should be noted that Nix likely has easier access to information on the Auburn campus, since he was a former assistant coach for the Tigers.
Despite throwing into a pretty stiff breeze Tuesday, Newton impressed most in attendance, especially when it came to his accuracy on intermediate passes of 10-20 yards – passes he rarely had to throw in the Auburn spread offense. He completed about 80 percent of the passes he threw with a couple of drops from his receivers. If there was a downside, it was a couple of bad overthrows on deep sideline passes.
A similar situation took place in Arkansas, where Mallett and his draft-eligible teammates worked out for representatives from all 32 teams. But his Pro Day dealt more with the same questions that have been dogging him since he showed up at the Combine – reports that he may have had a significant drug problem in college. He has been forced into something of a character reclamation, which, by all accounts, he seemed to handle pretty well Tuesday.
Mallett went through more than just a passing practice. He ran a 40-yard dash in 5.37 seconds and reminded reporters that no one thinks he’s Michael Vick anyways. He also did a vertical jump of 26 inches and a broad jump of 8-7¼.
Like Newton, Mallett had an impressive workout, which could put him back in the mix to be a potential first-round talent. However, after you get past the first half of the first round, there aren’t many teams that have an immediate need at QB, which could explain why they’re picking in the back half of the round.
Two quarterbacks left Indianapolis wondering why they ever bothered to show up. On Tuesday, it would seem both of them put their momentum back on track heading into the final stretch of the pre-draft hype process. With individual workouts coming in the next few weeks, both of the players who hurt themselves by potentially losing the most money on draft day after leaving Indianapolis have seemingly swung their buzz back in a positive direction.
While their were five head coaches and several general managers at both the Auburn and Arkansas Pro Day, the Vikings’ Rick Spielman was at neither. In fact, Spielman was at the Gophers Pro Day, which, given the lack of top-end talent on the Minnesota roster, makes one wonder if the Vikings are going to commit a late-round pick or a better-than-market undrafted free agent contract to the U of M’s Adam Weber. However, Spielman said that Mallett and Newton will be evaluated. The Vikings were represented at both of their workouts and either or both could be scheduled for private workouts. But, given that Spielman will likely wield more sway in the war room this year with Brad Childress no longer there, it seems curious that the Vikings wouldn’t send him to one of the two big QB workouts. But, given the covert nature of information distillation from the team in recent years, that comes as no surprise.
For those who miss the free-range mullet of Jared Allen, they can get a memorable look back to his mud-flap days on DVD. On Tuesday, Jackass 3D was released on video (in both 2D and 3D formats) and the gang is again up to its adults-only foolishness. One of the vignettes in the latest movie installment of the popular MTV TV show is called “The Blindside” – in which Jackass star Johnny Knoxville plays quarterback and gets face-planted by Allen and another in which he tries to catch a pass and Allen takes a free running shot at him. As if crippling Knoxville wasn’t enough, co-star Wee Man got more than he bargained for as well – with true Allen panache.
Move over Brett Favre … or perhaps start reconsidering your retirement decision. Giants running back Tiki Barber has filed the paperwork to end his four-year retirement and, at age 35, is looking to make a comeback. He last played in the NFL in 2006 and the Giants won a Super Bowl the year after he retired. In running back terms, playing at 35 is like a quarterback playing at 43 or 44. Given that the standard wall running backs almost always hit comes at age 30, Barber is pushing his luck. He is still the property of the Giants, who will release him, despite Brandon Jacobs being asked to take a pay cut and Ahmad Bradshaw likely to be a free agent when the new collective bargaining agreement is agreed on.
On the subject of the CBA, the league and the players association held their longest mediation session to date on Tuesday, which some believe is a good sign that progress is being made. However, it is becoming more of the consensus view that, without more of the critical pieces (lawyers for both sides and a handful of influential owners) another extension may be needed before Friday – echoing the scenario that played out in 2006 when both sides got to the end game of that version of Russian Roulette.
Newton wasn’t the only Auburn player getting a lot of attention during the five-and-a-half hour Pro Day workout. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley did position drills, but felt comfortable letting his 40-yard dash, weightlifting and shuttle run times from the Combine stand.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.