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Adrian Donofrio - LionsFans.com
He struck fear into the hearts of Lions fans last year when he was warming up on the sidelines. Just the thought of him playing threw everything out of whack.
Warren Sapp? Brett Favre? Randy Moss?
Nope, it's 3rd year quarterback Cory Sauter. The 26 year old has given more than a few Lions fans cold sweats by doing nothing more than warming up. It's almost hard to believe it's the same person Marty Mornhinweg raves about.
"He's got the best arm strength we have." Mornhinweg says. "Cory has worked very hard to become an NFL-caliber quarterback, and that work is paying off. He has a fine arm and is a fine athlete."
Originally signed March 1, 1999 after being released from the Arizona Cardinals practice team, Sauter has kept a low profile in the depth chart, never taking an NFL snap during the regular season. In college, though, he is the All-Time leader at Minnesota with 539 completions, 6,834 yards and 40 TD's. His coach during his sophomore and junior years, Jim Zorn, is formerly the Lions' quarterbacks coach, and he recommended management to sign Sauter. Since then, Sauter has done little more than play in the NFL's Europe league. He was 102 for 163 on the Barcelona Dragons, with 916 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Sauter beat out Notre Dame star Ron Powlus last year for the 3rd spot, but many say Zorn kept Sauter for personal reasons. Now that Zorn is with the Seahawks, many fans expected Sauter to get traded or released. But new Lions quarterback coach Kevin Higgins thinks otherwise.
"Cory has done so many positive things that we keep telling ourselves, 'Hey, we've got to get this guy into game-type situations to evaluate his ability to do it under pressure.' He has shown us so many things with his arm strength and his ability to master the offense, that you have to think he has a legitimate shot."
Master the offense? Isn't that Charlie Batch's job? Isn't it Batch's year to work harder than ever at keeping his job?
"He (Sauter) has been working harder than anyone in our program." Higgins explains. "He has been watching tapes of San Francisco from last year- every tape. He probably knows the offense better than anyone on the entire offense."
Those are pretty hefty compliments for someone who was wildly ineffective, even in the preseason. Could this be a marketing tool used by Mornhinweg and Higgins to hype up Sauter for a potential trade? Probably not, Sauter will have to prove himself to other teams before any of that happens, anyway. It's possible the shower of compliments given to Cory could actually be TRUE. But wait, there's more.
"We talked about how much he had to improve his footwork, and he's worked on that." Kevin Higgins says. "He's done some things to add more rhythm to his drop. Every rep he gets, Cory gets better. He has a naturally strong arm and is very intelligent."
But what about actual game play? NFL snaps?
"How will he do when he gets into game situations? His ability to execute then will be the deciding factor." Higgins states.
With all the good things being said about Cory Sauter, more and more people are starting to believe rookie quarterback Mike McMahon will have to settle on a special teams role or even a practice team spot. But if all the hype about Sauter is true, then a trade could be in order. Then again, if the hype is true, why would they want to get rid of him?
"As a backup quarterback in the NFL, you don't get that many opportunities to show what you can do." Cory says. "Every rep in practice, every snap you get in the preseason games, means a lot. I don't want to waste any opportunities."
He certainly can't afford to that, especially since management, and his future depend on it.