A.J. McCarron, the Alabama quarterback and Mobile, Ala., native declined the opportunity to attend the Senior Bowl this week.
Aaron Murray, the Georgia quarterback who couldn't get on the field because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, followed through with his commitment to the Senior Bowl because he viewed it very differently than McCarron. Murray wanted the opportunity to meet with coaches and scouts that attend the Senior Bowl in droves, and embraced the chance to spend time in meeting rooms and getting used to an NFL coaching staff.
Murray tore the ACL in his left knee in November but his recovery is on pace to challenge the timeframe for comeback established by Adrian Peterson and strived for by Robert Griffin III.
"I'm way ahead of the game. It feels great. I'm already doing some light jogging in the pool, pulling sleds, single-leg press over 600 pounds, just killing the rehab," Murray said earlier this week while sitting on a platform and convincing reporters that there was something different about his recovery. "Right now, the thought is I'll be back by pro day. It's very realistic."
Murray's pro day is April 16.
This week was spent showing off a confident but pleasant demeanor that should impress NFL decision-makers during interviews with teams. A month from now, he will be in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine doing the same thing, as well as having team doctors poking and prodding at his knee and other joints that have been injured throughout his career.
He doesn't appear the least bit concerned. He has had his share of injuries and every time rebounded more quickly than most anticipated. He expects nothing different this time around.
"I just tell (NFL personnel) it's feeling great. I'm ahead of the game, feeling strong and I'll be ready by my pro day," Murray said. "I'm not a doctor, but I'm just telling them what they tell me.
"They believe I'll be ready to go, do everything. I'm not going to go out there and run a 40 because I don't think there's any need for me to run a 40 or do any 5-10-5. I'm going to start doing drop-backs and throwing in three weeks and that gives me another month-and-a-half before pro day to continue working. I'll be more than fine."
He figures the fact that because it's his leg left, no his plant leg, that is injured, his throwing shouldn't be affected at his pro day.
While his surgery wasn't performed by Dr. James Andrews, renowned surgeon to the star athletes, Murray has been going through his rehabilitation at Andrews' facility in Pensacola, Fla.
"When I showed up they even said, ‘We've never seen anyone six weeks out looking as good as you. I've put in a lot of work. Day in, day out, non-stop rehab, rehab, rehab. It feels great. It's healing pretty fast," he said.
"I tend to heal kind of quickly. I broke my leg in high school and dislocated my ankle. That was supposed to be a four-month injury and I was back in six weeks and played in two games. I just tend to heal faster. I tore my labrum my sophomore year of high school and came back in eight, nine months. That's supposed to be a year-plus rehab, too. I heal a little bit faster."
"I don't really swell much. I was able to have surgery three days after the injury and most people wait 10 days to a month, but I was fine because I didn't swell. I didn't swell that much post-surgery. I was on the elliptical six days after surgery. I was in the pool two weeks after surgery."
Murray also saw plenty of teammates go through similar or the same process at Georgia. In every case, he said, they came through it stronger than ever and he has no reason to doubt that will be the case with him.
He started 52 games for the Bulldogs, compiled a 35-17 record and holds SEC records for completions (921), passing yards (13,166) and touchdown passes (121). He said the type of offense he piloted so well at Georgia should help him make a smooth transition to the NFL.
"At Georgia, we were pretty much a pro-style offense anyway, so a lot of stuff that we were going over in the meetings right now, most of it is very similar plays to those I ran at Georgia," Murray said. "There's always a new take on something and you can always get some advice on coaches and something new. Also, you get to meet with these coaches and GMs at night. It's very beneficial."
In addition to the injury, Murray will also have to overcome the lack of prototypical quarterback size. He checked into the Senior Bowl at just over six feet tall and 201 pounds. It was the shortest of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl.
That's one reason he said it's important for him to work on finding passing lanes. He also wants to improve his accuracy after completing 61.5 percent of his passes at Georgia.
Still, his main obstacle to overcome, at least at this time, is proving he will be healthy enough to work at an NFL training camp. All he has to do is point to Marlon Brown, one of his receivers at Georgia who left a year before Murray and had ACL surgery a year before him.
"He was an undrafted free agent (in 2013), got picked up by the Ravens and actually led the Ravens in touchdown receptions this year," Murray said. "I talk to him a lot and he's like, ‘You'll be fine, come back stronger than ever.' We've had a lot of guys tear ACLs and all of them have come back stronger than before and better than ever, so I'm feeling very confident."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Senior Bowl: QB Murray ‘killing the rehab'
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