Day One Picks Talk NFL Combine

To participate or to not participate. On the mend. Speed is the name of this game. Training sets the stage for the NFL Combine. The interview process. Do I weigh enough? Getting back to football. Can you guess which day one NFL Draft prospects said what on the eve of the NFL Combine?

The headline story en route to the NFL Scouting Combine each year is which prospects will take part in the full compliment of drills and who will choose to sit, preferring to use their Pro Day as the written exam for the NFL Draft.

This year is no different. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn and USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett are among the prominent names deciding whether or not to participate.

For Quinn, who showed up in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl but opted out of participating because of a bum knee, the NFL Combine could be the instrument he needs to get back on the map as the top quarterback on the board.

"It is feeling good," Quinn said of a knee injury that kept him out of the Senior Bowl. "I am definitely working hard to get everything a 100 percent, preparing for the Combine and my Pro Day."

With the Combine just days away and his explicit mention of it without prodding, one would assume he is set to participate in the annual event.

Not so fast.

"Right now, I am still talking things over with my agent and trying to get a feel for what is best for me at this point in time," he said.

Texas offensive tackle Justin Blalock is also on the mend. He suffered a sprained MCL that limited him at the Senior Bowl.

"It's been getting a lot better," Blalock said. "With those kind of things, it just takes time and rest, which is one thing I didn't have a lot of at the end of the season. After the bowl season, it finally got a chance to heal a little bit, and getting back to where I need to be now."

Jarrett, meanwhile, is in the same boat as Quinn. The junior entrant had a flair for the dramatic in college, playing his best games against elite competition. He has yet to decide whether he will participate and may save his workout for his Pro Day.

"I am not sure yet," Jarrett. "We haven't made up our mind about that. We will definitely be there and will see what happens from there. Depending on what happens we will make a decision on that and everyone will know. I am definitely going to work out on my Pro Day."

For others, speed is the name of the Combine game. When Vernon Davis left tread marks while running a 4.37 forty-yard dash last year, it immediately elevated his status. He ended up being selected sixth overall by the San Francisco 49ers.

That kind of output from any player can send their draft stock soaring.

"As a DB or wide receiver, you always want to impress the scouts and coaches with speed, overall speed," Texas cornerback Aaron Ross admitted. "That's why I'm at Athlete's Performance (API), to work on my speed and to get to the full potential that I can get it to."

"One of my goals is to run a 4.29 or a low 4.3," Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson explained. "Everything else will take care of itself."

Peterson has that right. Already considered a top-ten pick, Peterson can cement top-five billing by posting those numbers.

API figures prominently into preparing many of these young athletes for the NFL Combine. They continue to be at the forefront in their ability to train prospects for the drills they will face. Davis was a disciple last season, and Ross and Peterson are two of many who have trained at the Phoenix facility this year.

Each player has their own goals in mind from the unconventional training they receive – better results in Indianapolis a unanimous goal.

With 327 draft-eligible prospects convening at the RCA Dome, any advantage they can glean will aid them when the NFL Draft hits in April.

"Athletes Performance, they really focus on the muscles and the explosion aspects of the Combine work that we're going to be doing," Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch explained. "The bench-press, the technique and where you want to let the bar hit on your chest, getting that rhythm going on. And the 40, they really help you with the start mechanics and how to maintain the speed throughout the whole 40-yard dash."

"Everything that they do there is different," Fresno State cornerback Marcus McCauley said of training at API. "That's why API is different and they get the results they get because they don't do conventional things. It's kind of hard in the stuff they do at first, but once you see your body changing, you can tell the changes just in your strength and your speed, you start to believe when you see the improvement in the guys that you work with how they improve, too."

"I asked a lot about the regeneration courses that they have, like the ‘bum roll'," Branch added. "I'd never seen the ‘bum roll' before and the other stuff. We do a lot of balancing on one leg and skip, bending over and stuff. I never really knew what that was for, but I guess it stretches your muscles out and helps you with your hip flexor mobility.

"A lot of those guys make it look a lot easier than it really is. I'm just there ... I'm struggling. I just try my best every time we do exercises like that because I don't want to look too much like a fool."

To each his own is the saying and what some want to work on may surprise you. While he had no trouble answering this reporter, Blalock maintains the interviewing process is one area of his "game" that requires improvement.

"The interviewing process," Blalock said of what he wants to improve upon before the NFL Draft. "We did it somewhat at the Senior Bowl, but I imagine it'll be a little more intense at the Combine. So I really want to get that down pat. As far as the Combine stuff, all the drills, just be as good as possible in all those, keeping in mind that they have little to nothing to do with football. So you don't want to put in too much time with that stuff and let your game suffer."

With 60 interviews allotted to each team, Blalock figures to be in heavy demand. How he, and every other player in attendance, comes across in his interview segment could go a long way in determining whether he will be selected because of high character or passed on because of perceived flaws.

For some, the concerns aren't even about football savvy and drills but about weight.

"I think I came in pretty good," Texas defensive end Tim Crowder said of his Senior Bowl eight. "I was 271 down there and if they need me to go up, I can go up; if they need me to drop, I'm at a point where I can drop."

Crowder has been getting looks from teams that use the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts. His decision to stay in the 270-range may prove to be a wise decision when originally there were concerns he came in too light.

And then there is a young prospect on the rise that is itching to return to football drills where pads collide. The Combine presents a short detour.

"I kind of want to get this Combine thing over with because all I have been doing is running drills and bench press so if I put up some good times I don't think I am going to do too much on the Pro Day," USC center Ryan Kalil explained. "After the Combine I think I am going to start working out football stuff, getting better and getting ready to get into a camp to compete."

At the end of week-long circus, dreams will be realized or shattered by what they do on the turf in Indianapolis – that is if they decide to participate at all.

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