Minicamp Offers Hope For Late Rounders

Rookie minicamp is the time of year where teams get a look at the players they thougth could help their roster for the coming season. Some rookies, like Calvin Johnson or Joe Thomas, are expected to start, while others hope to just make the final roster. Camp is where these late round picks can make an impression good or bad.

Minicamp at this time of year features a lot of stories regarding hopeful players. Aside from the top draft picks, there are undrafted free agents and later-round picks hoping to get noticed.

Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is one. A seventh-round pick, Bradshaw totaled 2,987 yards in three seasons at Marshall and totaled 36 touchdowns. He also returns punts and kickoffs. Last season, he rushed for 1,523 yards and 21 scores.

So. Aside from being 5-9, 198, why was he drafted so late? Chalk it up to off-field issues. His career was supposed to start at Virginia (Tiki Barber's school), but his scholarship was revoked after he was arrested for underage alcohol possession and resisting arrest. Then, at Marshall in Jan. 2006, he was arrested for stealing another student's PlayStation 2.

"He is going to be on a short leash," general manager Jerry Reese said after the draft. "We are not going to have guys come in here and disrupt things. All of the background stuff we did on him, we think he is a good kid. He needs a little bit of structure. But he was worth taking a shot on."

Noting that Bradshaw "flashed" at the team's recent rookie camp, coach Tom Coughlin said, "Bradshaw was a value pick, even though it was late in the draft. You study his background, then study it again, then talk to people and ask the right questions. And ultimately you have to make a call, which is what we did. We decided that we would go with him and take a look."

Said Bradshaw, "Everybody looks at me as whatever, but I plan on coming in here and making a name for myself, and helping the Giants out as much as I can. All the character issues, that's put behind me now, and I plan on making that a motivator for me."

--In San Diego, linebacker Brandon Siler wants to show teams they made a mistake for having him last until the seventh round. Siler entered the draft with a year of eligibility remaining after being a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award that honors the country's best defensive player.

His coach at Florida, Urban Meyer, counseled him to stay in school another year.

Said Siler, "I was a tad bit embarrassed because of the decision I made for a little while, but it was a decision I made and I'm going to stand behind that decision.

"If I would've (gone) next year, there's no promises that the same thing wouldn't have happened. I did everything that I had to do, and things still didn't work out for me."

--Meanwhile, in Buffalo, general manager Marv Levy experienced deja vu when the team selected Oklahoma defensive C.J. Ah You in the seventh round. Levy coached Junior Ah You, C.J.'s uncle, in the Canadian Football League.

Said Levy, "He was probably the greatest defensive end in the history of the CFL, the Canadian version of Bruce Smith. At the combine, C.J. came up to me and said, 'You coached my uncle.' I hope he has those genes."

Player Notes:

Panthers WR Ryne Robinson, who was drafted in the fourth round from Miami of Ohio, hopes to follow the same path to NFL success as new teammate Steve Smith. Like Smith, Robinson is 5-foot-9 and will have to make it first as a returner before proving he can be an every down receiver. When asked what he can learn from Smith's success story, Robinson replied, "Inspiration and confidence. Obviously, Steve Smith has turned out to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. He worked hard at it and I'm going to do the same thing." Like Smith, Robinson is considered fast, quick and difficult to tackle. And like Smith, his college numbers at Miami of Ohio were largely overlooked because of his size. An All-Mid American first-team selection, Robinson started every game at split end and was second in the nation with an average of 7.58 receptions per game and ranked fifth in yards per game (98.2). He set a school record with 91 catches for 1,178 yards and eight touchdowns in 2006. And he wasn't just a one-year wonder. For his career, Robinson recorded a school-record 258 catches for 3,697 yards and 22 touchdowns. Robinson was drafted to fill a need as a returner. With the Redhawks, Robinson averaged 13.8 yards per punt return and returned seven for touchdowns. Although he only returned eight kickoffs in college, largely because his coach didn't want to overuse him for fear of injury, the Panthers are hoping he can handle that role, as well. "I feel comfortable doing both."

DT Walter Thomas, who was signed by the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Northwest Mississippi Community College, was sent to the locker room just 12 minutes into his first practice and then cut. Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 375-pounder who reportedly ran the 40 in 4.90 seconds and can do back flips, experienced conditioning problems shortly after the first workout started and was sent to the training room because coach Sean Payton deemed him unfit to continue. "We had to cut Walter Thomas," Payton said later. "He was struggling. Walter had a brief career. It was a situation where, from a conditioning standpoint, he had a long way to go."

New York RB Ahmad Bradshaw was not an easy pick for the Giants, not because of its import (round seven, 250th overall) or for any lack of talent on Bradshaw's part, but because of off-field concerns. The productive dynamo from Marshall (5-9, 198) had a somewhat checkered college career that included two brushes with legal authorities, but both cases were dismissed and GM Jerry Reese seemed to chalk them up to the mistakes of youth. Bradshaw was spectacular in the team's two-day rookie minicamp and if he continues to tread the straight and narrow, could provide the speed ingredient missing from the team's running game since the retirement of Tiki Barber.

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