INDIANAPOLIS – By the time what started out as a passing thought on a practice field reaches social media and then Internet and radio commentary, the truth about an NFL prospect has predictably fallen into a void.
So this week in the frigid Midwest, those players get to take back their reputation in front of the national media and all 32 NFL teams. They get 15 minutes alone with whichever teams schedule them for interviews and 15 minutes either at a podium or a table inside the media center, and today was the day for quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers to go in front of the cameras.
USC quarterback Matt Barkley was the first to draw the big crowd he had hoped for at Podium B so he could fire back at his critics. Barkley chose to return for his senior year, despite being projected to be near the top of last year’s draft class, and a shoulder injury derailed his final season with the Trojans. When asked by a reporter what he thought about some people saying he doesn’t have an NFL arm, Barkley was very succinct.
“I disagree,” he said, with a slight chuckle ensuing from the rest of the crowd.
Barkley handled every other question professionally but with a bit of a visible chip at some of the insinuations being made. His shoulder was obviously a big focus, but he was also asked to explain why his statistics dropped off from his junior season.
“Every year is not going to be the same. Think about it, you can’t get better every single year,” Barkley said. “It’s physically impossible to keep throwing for more yards and more yards every year, so there’s going to be some years where it just doesn’t click or some things just don’t go as planned.”
Wide receivers Keenan Allen of California and Terrance Williams of Baylor had their own perceived deficiencies to combat, with Williams being viewed as just a straight-line receiver and not a good route runner, while Allen’s speed has come into question.
Unfortunately for Allen, he won’t be able to answer the speed question because a knee injury is keeping himself out of the drills this weekend, but he is confident he can be a starter on Sundays and feels that he will be able to show his ability to get behind cornerbacks at his Pro Day on March 14th. Williams has been working on his route running but feels that aspect of his game is underrated.
“I can just control what I can control and continue to show what I can do to the best of my abilities,” said Williams, who caught 97 passes for an eye-popping 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. “When that time comes for me to run different stuff people will see that I can, but as far as running straight, I know I’m faster than you so why not? When the time comes for people to change my routes then that’s when they’ll see that I can run routes.”
Not only are these players getting to set the record straight, they are leaving a lasting impression with their confidence and their passion that is on display.
Florida State University quarterback might have done the best job in that department when he had a chance to explain his decision to throw at the Combine when other quarterbacks before him have skipped out.
“To me, I don’t have anything to hide,” Manuel said. “First off it’s a competition and I think it’s the best opportunity to come out and present your skills. If you want people to see you this is the best opportunity to do it. Ozzie Newsome spoke to us yesterday and said this is the best stage out of this whole process to have everybody out here to see what you can do. I think that was the main reason for me choosing to throw this weekend.”
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