Potential No. 1 Selections Bradford and Clausen the Focus of NFL Scouting Combine Saturday
INDIANAPOLIS – The number was entirely coincidental.
Whether it proves prophetic for Sam Bradford very much remains to be seen.
Bradford, a quarterback from Oklahoma University projected to potentially be the first player selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, has been assigned QB1 at the NFL Scouting Combine. Asked Saturday afternoon if one had anything to do with the other, he laughed.
"It's alphabetic and mine happens to be the first name," Bradford said Saturday at the combine, which is scheduled to continue at Lucas Oil Stadium through Tuesday, March 2.
Bradford, along with Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, was one of the main stories at the combine Saturday, with Colt McCoy of Texas drawing big-time attention, too.
But it was Bradford, who missed the last half of his final collegiate season with a shoulder injury, who had the highest-profile Saturday – that because of speculation and rethis week that he may be the first player selected overall come April.
He likely would have been in a similar situation last offseason, but the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner returned for what became a season defined by his injury, an injury he first sustained in the season opener. He returned, but underwent season-ending surgery to reconstruct his AC joint after Week 3.
That decision led to a question Saturday:
If he had it to do again, would he have tried to play through it?
"If I wouldn't have tried to come back, there's no way I could have lived with that decision," Bradford said.
Bradford said his shoulder was about 85 percent and that it "checked out fine" in physical examinations by teams this week.
"I knew I had to work that much harder to get myself back in a position to have that opportunity," Bradford said. "I feel like I've worked extremely hard. But like I said, it's not up to me. I don't get to pick. I know on March 25th (at his Pro Day) when I throw for everyone, I'm going to put on a great show and show everyone what I have."
Decisions were at the forefront of the media's session with Clausen, too.
Clausen, like Bradford, is projected by some as a potential No. 1 overall selection by the St. Louis Rams, and also like Bradford, he is widely considered one of the Top 10-to-15 players available.
Being prepared for such a scenario – and all of the situations he will face over the coming year – was a primary reason he said he selected Notre Dame over Southern California when choosing a college, he said.
"That's why I went to Notre Dame, to best replicate what it was going to be like playing big-time football in the NFL as a rookie," Clausen said. "There's obviously been history shown that a lot of quarterbacks that come into their rookie season in the NFL have struggled. I kind of went through that at Notre Dame. I struggled my first year, got a little better my second year and made a drastic change my junior year in college."
Also like Bradford, Clausen said he knew he entered the combine with personnel officials and coaches having questions about him. But whereas the questions around Bradford mostly surrounded the physical, and while Clausen addressed a turf toe injury that bothered him throughout his senior season, Clausen also said he was well aware there were other concerns about him, too.
"Cocky, arrogant, not a good teammate," Clausen said when asked what the questions were about him. "That just comes with the territory of being the quarterback at Notre Dame. That's just the way it is."
Clausen said easing those worries was a primary goal of the weekend.
"The people who are saying those things don't really know me as a person," he said.
Clausen said he has matured at Notre Dame as a player and more.
"I've grown tremendously since I came into Notre Dame," he said. "I came in early as a senior. I came out early to Notre Dame, got in there in January, and tried to get a head start on my college career. There have been some ups and downs, a lot of lessons I've learned through that time. I overcame a lot of adversity during my past three years at Notre Dame. It's just been the greatest time of my life and I've learned some of the greatest experiences that I could."
Clausen added of NFL officials, "I just want them to see me up close and personal."
While what those officials see in Bradford and Clausen this weekend could influence whose name will be first called in New York come late April, neither Clausen nor Bradford offered much in the way of draft predictions.
"I think everybody dreams about being No. 1," Bradford said. "Through this process, I'm preparing myself. I'm going to show those teams everything I have. But at the end of the day, it's up to them. So I'm really not worried about what I can't control."
Said Clausen, "I just want to go somewhere where they want me as a person and a player, to go to that organization and help them win games. That's all I'm about. I'm about going there and trying to make my team better. Whether it's being on the practice squad, helping the defense, whether it's being the staring quarterback - that's a coach's decision. My goal is just to go in, whoever drafts me, go in there and learn the playbook as quick as I can and get out there and do everything I can to help the team win."
Also at the combine Saturday:
• New York Giants General Manager Jerry Reese on the potential for more restricted free agents than normal to change teams this offseason: "It's going to be interesting to see which direction people go. I'm sure there will be some activity, but it's hard to tell which way people will try to maneuver their roster with the restricted free agents. I think we're just going to let it unfold and see which direction people try to go."
• Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo on holding the No. 1 overall selection: "Any pick, I think, is a risk. You take a defensive lineman, a corner, they're all a risk. When I say that, I mean none of us know for sure. It's a calculated risk I guess is the best way to put it. You do all your work, your homework, and hope that when it's all said and done the pick you make is the best one for the football team."
• Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan on the so-called "Final Eight" rule, under which teams that made their respective conference's divisional playoff round may not sign an unrestricted free agent until they lose an unrestricted free agent: "I think it is a penalty for sure. Because you might be, maybe you need a tight end or whatever it is and you don't have that ability to go out and get some of the top guys that might be available."