The NFL's inaugural Veteran Combine was held March 22nd in Phoenix, Arizona, giving players who never really seemed to find solid footing in the league a chance to show scouts what they have to offer. More than 100 players participated, and Falcons scouts were reportedly on hand to assess their performances.
Ultimately, for many of these players, this represents one last shot to catch on with a team. There were many notable names involved in this process, from quarterback Brady Quinn to former Falcons defensive end Jamaal Anderson.
You'll vividly remember Anderson, who was selected by the Falcons with the eighth overall pick in 2007 and proceeded to not even remotely live up to his draft status. Anderson had 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles over four seasons in Atlanta and was waived by the Falcons following the 2010 season.
Anderson told Around the NFL's Conor Orr that he's prepared to set his first round ego aside and fully appreciate the NFL experience. "I feel outstanding, not just physically but mentally, and I think it definitely humbled me to sit back and realize that I'm not entitled as a first-rounder to be on a roster," Anderson said. "I think I'm going to cherish more of the journey now."
One thing that stood out about the Veteran Combine participants is that age certainly seems to be a factor in 40 times. The 40 times posted by running backs were markedly slower than what you might expect from those participating in the Combine as draft-eligible college players. Most were significantly closer to 5.0 times and above than the 4.4 times participants aim for as they enter the draft.
That slowdown is a difficult thing to come to terms with, especially as players hope against hope for one more shot in the National Football League. Running back Michael Bush struggled with his emotions when he was told he ran a 4.91 40-yard dash. "You gotta be (expletive deleted) kidding me," Bush said. "4.91? There you go, there goes my career." Mikel Leshoure, as a contrast, ran well and posted unofficial times of 4.75 and 4.85. Because the times were taken by hand, expect the official times to come in a bit faster.
Michael Sam participated in the veteran combine, as the former SEC Defensive Player of the Year tries to catch on with a team this season after being cut by the Rams and Cowboys in 2014. Sam deflected questions about his Dancing with the Stars appearance and any other non-football related questions, opting instead to focus on his desire to play football professionally. After running a 4.91 40 at last year's NFL Combine, Sam's unofficial times at the Veteran Combine were 5.07 and 5.1 seconds, respectively.
One player the Falcons might have been eyeing is former first-round defensive end Adam Carriker, who suffered an injury that essentially washed him out of the league two years ago. Carriker managed 40 bench press reps, which was three more than any player at the NFL Combine was able to complete. For Carriker, who has been medically cleared to return to football, the Veteran Combine gives him the opportunity to return to the game he loves. "I was out of sight, out of mind," Carriker said. "That's why this is great for me, I can remind teams 'Hey, I'm still alive. I can still play this game.'"
Your thoughts on the Veteran Combine and players the Falcons may be able to mine from it?