Healing Heyward Hoping For Big Impact

Former Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward went out with a bang with a big performance against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, but it came with a price. The versatile defender suffered an elbow injury that continues to affect him as he takes part in the NFL combine.

Sporting a fresh scar on the inside of his left elbow, former Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward continued his quest to be a first-round NFL draft pick.

Flocked by a sizable media contingent, the lineman said he will not be taking part in drills as he continues to recover from surgery for an injury suffered in his final game for the Buckeyes.

"It's getting better," he said, displaying the joint and fully extending his arm. "I've got my full motion back already. I'm a little disappointed I don't get to work out here but pro day is March 30 and I'm getting better every day. I recently had UCL reconstruction."

UCL stands for ulnar collateral ligament. The surgery is more commonly known as "Tommy John surgery" and took place Jan. 12. The expected recovery time is three months, he said.

Heyward will not work out at OSU's pro day March 11 but will do everything but bench press at his own workouts in Columbus 19 days later. He was just cleared to begin running last week, he said.

The injury occurred in the second quarter of OSU's victory against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. Heyward finished the game and produced one of his most dominating performances of the season: six tackles including 3.5 for a loss and one sack.

"I fell down and I tried to catch myself and someone fell on top of me so my elbow went in and I tore some ligaments," he said.

What sort of impact the injury might have on his draft stock remains uncertain. A borderline first-round projected pick, Heyward said he is not worried about whether he goes in the first or second round of the draft.

"I don't know where I'm going to go," he said. "I'm just approaching this with the best attitude. If I go in the second round, it doesn't matter because it's been a great opportunity and not a lot of people can say they've played in the NFL."

He weighed in at 294 pounds, six pounds heavier than his listed playing weight as a senior.

NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said Heyward could sneak into the first round if a few chips fall into place.

"I see him as a load to handle and I wonder if they're going to talk about him moving inside to defensive tackle, as big and powerful as he is," Davis said. "A lot of people see him as a base 3-4 defensive end, 5-technique, maybe more so than a flat-out pass-rushing specialist but he has great value. He could easily sneak into the first round if there's a run on these defensive ends."

After recording 46 tackles including 10.0 for a loss and a career-high 6½ sacks as a junior, Heyward was projected as a potential first-round pick. He opted to return to Columbus for his senior season but did not have the same kind of impact.

Although he had 48 tackles and 13.0 tackles for a loss, his sacks dropped to 3½ for the season as the Buckeyes struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks for much of the season.

"It's no short of effort," he said. "I'm a guy that has a very high motor and I'm going to give you all I've got. You'll see all my pass-rush moves. I might not have gotten there every time but I'm continuing to get better.

"As a pass rusher for the next level, I'm a guy who really likes to be physical with the pass blockers. I know I need to refine my techniques and continue to improve but I'm a guy that's going to constantly hustle and give it all I've got."

For his career, Heyward finished 11th in OSU history with 37.5 tackles for a loss and tied for 12th with 14 1/2 sacks while rotating along the defensive line. That versatility should help him come draft day, he said.

"I feel comfortable on the line," he said when asked if he had a preferred position. "That's all. It doesn't matter because going to Ohio State, I've been in a 4-3 system where I could play end and tackle but then we also went to a 3-4 on third downs so that's benefited me.

"I think it only helps. It might have hurt my numbers but it shows that I can be more versatile. It's only going to benefit me. It makes me more able to pick out different things and I'm able to help out a lot more. There's a lot of teams that do both so it's going to help me."

For now, Heyward said he simply wants to get back into a competitive environment.

"I'm getting healthy," he said. "It's been an ongoing process. It hurts a lot because I really want to be out here. I wish I could be competing my butt off because I'm itching at this chance and salivating. It's a great opportunity to be here. You want to be a part of it."

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