Rodgers fires back with his own impressive workout

"This is what I do best, is throwing," Aaron Rodgers was saying early Thursday afternoon after his Pro Day workout on the University of California campus. You won't get any argument on that from the 49ers or any of the other 31 NFL teams that had representatives in Berkeley as Rodgers was every bit as impressive as Utah's Alex Smith was the day before. "I thought he did extremely well," Niners coach Mike Nolan said. "He's as polished as all (college prospects) I've seen."

Like Smith, Rodgers impressed a large gathering of NFL personnel by making all the throws with a strong, accurate arm that maybe looked a little more lively than Smith's the day before. Rodgers looked smooth and crisp whether he was taking a quick three-step drop or rolling out to unleash deep downfield throws.

"He looked very much like he does on film," Nolan said. "He's got a very accurate, very strong arm (and) a nice, tight ball. His mechanics are very good, very strong. He's got an excellent arm. And he's mobile enough – maybe not as mobile as the guys he's being compared with, but mobile enough."

Nolan wasn't the only head coach in attendance to come away impressed with Rodgers.

Miami coach Nick Saban, whose Dolphins have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft behind the 49ers and also are considering drafting a quarterback, also gushed about Rodgers' performance.

"It was an excellent workout," Saban said. "The ball was on the ground only one time. That's got to say something about his accuracy. And I was impressed with his arm strength."

Said Oakland Raiders coach Norv Turner, "He's got a great feel for all of the throws. He's got great accuracy and a great touch."

While Rodgers was his own worst critic – "I want to be perfect, and we had a couple of balls on the ground," he said – he came away from his final major opportunity to show off his skills to a wide range of NFL people pleased that he had gained ground on Smith in their duel to be the first quarterback selected in April – and perhaps the first pick overall. Smith also had a workout on Wednesday that was universally praised.

"It went pretty well," Rodgers said. "It was a good workout. When I was throwing the ball, it came out nice. And the ball was on target. You've got to be able to sit in the pocket and throw the ball. I think that's what gives me a slight advantage right now (over Smith) is that I operated under center every snap and he was in the shotgun most of the snaps. Not that he can't do it. I'm sure he had a great workout yesterday. But it's a little different dropping back and reading the defense than sitting back in the shotgun and reading the defense."

Rodgers had a get-together with Nolan, Niners offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Jim Hostler afterward – a casual prearranged meeting that was afforded none of the other teams in attendance after the workout.

"They wanted to get some background stuff and test my football IQ," said Rodgers, who also added that he "would love to play for the 49ers." "I think I impressed them with my knowledge of the game."

Nolan wouldn't go as far as to say Rodgers had climbed to the top of the 49ers draft board, but he did say, "Aaron is certainly in that picture. Early on, when a guy is polished, his capabilities early are better, but you have to look long-term also. You'd like to think he's a player who's going to be with you his entire career."

So, after seeing them both in extended workout sessions in the span of two days, is Nolan leaning toward Rodgers or Smith.

"I won't go that far right now," Nolan said. "It would be unfair."

Just the same, Nolan looked very much like a guy who's happy he gets to make that decision.

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