Combine notes: Best saved for last

INDIANAPOLIS - Amid the sounds of melting ice sliding off the roof of the RCA Dome as well as name after name of players who would not run the 40-yard dash, the 2003 NFL combine ended Monday.<p>

Fortunately for league scouts and talent evaluators, the best was saved for last as the final group of defensive backs offered several superlative performances.

The morning started off with the linebackers continuing this years' combine theme as E.J. Henderson, Terry Pierce and Boss Bailey chose not to take part in the physical tests.

But as was the case with yesterday's receivers workout, the highlight of the session was a small school prospect; Chaun Thompson of West Texas A&M. Timed faster then any linebacker who ran, Thompson showed scouts tremendous athleticism and was very effective during the drill segment. High on their list of "sleepers," scouts were already impressed with Thompson after he totaled 29 repetitions of 225-pounds on the bench press the day before.

At one point an observer asked aloud, "Where is West Texas A&M?" only to have an associate pull a pocket map from his briefcase and inform everyone the school is located in Canyon, Texas, just south of Amarillo. Humor aside, Thompson moved into the draft's first day with his results Monday morning.

Oregon State's Nick Barnett also had a quality session, as did another Pac Ten player, Lance Briggs of Arizona. For the most part the linebackers displayed a good amount of speed and those that took to the turf today served themselves well.

The defensive backs began their session around noon and the last group of cornerbacks, one highlighted by the big names from the position, left people talking.

Kansas State star Terence Newman stayed true to his word and worked out, despite a previous shoulder injury, which required an MRI over the weekend. Newman was fast, clocking a pair of 40 times that averaged 4.40 on stopwatches, but the champion sprinter failed to live up to the legendary times many expected from him.

Washington State's Marcus Trufant continued his tear in the off-season posting two hand-held times under 4.50 seconds and again displayed great cover techniques during the drill segment. Andre Woolfolk seems to be righting the ship as the former Oklahoma star put together a solid session, something needed after a poor performance at the Senior Bowl.

Even with all that, the star of the day was Oregon State's Dennis Weathersby. Not known to be "fleet of foo," the All American torched the track, twice running under 4.39 on most watches. A large cover corner who some project to be a safety, his workout was best summed up by one prominent general manager – "huge." The end result could see Weathersby moving into the first round.

Conversely Monday saw TCU linebacker LaMarcus McDonald struggle to run faster than 5.00 in the 40 and Michigan State safety Thomas Wright have difficulty getting under the 4.80 barrier.

All things considered this was another successful combine as scouts went away feeling many of their questions had been answered. This year's extended format stretched testing sessions to a four-day period, rather then the cramped 72 hours teams previously were allotted to measure and time future professionals. Only 68% of the invitees participated, meaning almost one-third passed up the opportunity, holding out for personnel workouts to display their talents.

What will the final outcome be from this year's combine? We'll find out in eight weeks when the cards are brought to the podium and the names announced during the NFL Draft!


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