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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quarterback Cam Newton answers some questions with solid pro day performance

It was the Cam Newton show at Auburn's pro day today, with around 125 NFL personnel from every team in attendance to watch the quarterback throw.

He didn't disappoint. Newton threw around 65 passes in an extended session near the end of the workouts. He completed all but 10 of them, a far cry from his 11-for-21 performance at the combine nine days ago.

"He's a very, very proud athlete, and he's a very competitive guy," said George Whitfield Jr., Newton's personal quarterback coach. "If Michael Jordan one night scores 20 points, you best believe the next team that he faces is going to have deal with 45 going in. I think that's the kind of mindset Cam had today."

Despite slightly windy conditions, a far cry from the sterile dome environment in Indianapolis, Newton was sharp, showing zip on his passes and being on target. He went down a roster of passes (perimeter throws, comebacks, out routes, etc), throwing to a group of Auburn receivers he was comfortable with.

"He really came out and attacked this deal," Whitfield said. "I think the coaches and scouts, especially when we went back and asked them if they wanted to hear anything else or see anything else, (Cardinals) coach (Ken) Whisenhunt asked him to throw maybe two balls, (Titans offensive coordinator Chris) Palmer asked to see two more balls, and that was it. I asked them many times and they were good.

"They thought we put together a good game plan. Cam came out and executed the game plan, and that was a bigger deal."

Although head coaches from five teams with five of the first six picks were on hand, none were in a talking mood afterward. However, Buddy Nix, the general manager of the Buffalo Bills, who own the third pick, spoke about Newton.

"I tell you this, workouts are a small piece of the puzzle," he said. "We go by how they play. If the throwing is good, you can tell something about their release, you can tell something about his arm.

"But the only way you can tell how a guy can play quarterback is when he’s being rushed and you’ve got coverage and you’ve got to throw it in a tight spot and you’ve got pressure on you. That’s kind of what we go by. The biggest percentage, anyway. Eighty percent, probably."

Did he learn anything about Newton he didn't already know?

"No," Nix said. "He did good, and I expected him to."

Newton also continued to answer questions from teams about his character.

“They want to know everything," he said. "They want to know who I really am. During this whole process, I’ve done a lot of explaining about who I really am. I’m extremely comfortable with that, because I know this is a multi-million dollar investment, and they have to know who they’re picking.

"Each organization has to do a thorough investigation on who this person really is: what his background is and is he a competitor? It’s just fun and I look forward to talking to team after team about who I really am.”

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Some other quick notes and quotes from Auburn's pro day:
  • Whitfield was full on analogies. Naturally, he was extremely positive about Newton. "He came out like Secretariat," he said. "He was pawing at the ground, knew it was a big day, wanted it, waiting for the gates to open. The kid went off."
  • Newton's No. 1 goal was to show consistency. "Every quarterback has tendencies, every athlete has tendencies," Newton said. "And that’s my tendency, to get impatient. And when I get impatient, the throws are erratic. That’s one thing I wanted to focus on: to be comfortable today."
  • One more Whitfield quote: "We really didn't hit a finish line today. This is just the next game. All he's going to do is continue to get better."
  • Representatives from all 32 NFL teams were on hand, including the head coach from teams with five of the first six picks in April's NFL draft. Carolina's Ron Rivera, Denver's John Fox (with executive vice president of football operations John Elway in tow), Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Whisenhunt and Cleveland's Pat Shurmur were all in attendance.
  • Newton wouldn't speculate where he'll be taken in April's draft. “That’s not something I’m thinking of right now," he said. "My focus is on me being the best player I can be. Tomorrow is another day for me to work on my craft and become another football player. I’m not going to worry about something I do not have control over, but I do have control over myself. To make this transition a fluid one to the NFL.”
  • Nick Fairley’s pro day was brief, the kind you’re entitled to have after doing almost everything at the NFL Scouting Combine. But the former Auburn defensive tackle, who is expected to go near the top of Aprils’ NFL Draft, still went through a variety of position drills. “I can just show that I’ve still been working,” said Fairley, who was pleased with his day. “Even though the combine is over with … I’m still training. I wanted to show those guys that I’m still working to get better.”
  • Fairley measured in at 6-foot-4, 297 pounds (six more than in Indianapolis), then stuck with his combine numbers for the individual drills. He took the field for the first time with his fellow defensive linemen for positional drills late in the day, showing agility and footwork while weaving through cones and pads as scouts watched. “If anybody can tell if a guy can play football running through dummies, he’s better than I am,” Nix said. “But you do see athletic ability. He has great ability, feet, speed and bursts and all of those things. He’s a good player. He makes plays on Saturday, and he’ll make them again on Sundays.”
  • A number of teams with high picks took an interest in Fairley’s drills. Fox and Elway, whose Broncos pick second, stood among a cluster of scouts watching on. Fairley also spoke with Rivera, whose Panthers own the No. 1 pick. “They’ve been talking to me, but all the teams have been talking to me,” Fairley said. “It would be wonderful if I was able to go there. It doesn’t matter what team I go to — I just want to play football.”
  • Fairley wanted to wear a red shirt to match his Nike shorts, but the only one he could was Darvin Adams' from the combine. So he wore it, even though it was tight. "After this, I'll just peel it off," Fairley joked.
  • Asking Auburn’s players which Tiger had the best pro day performance, one name kept coming up: defensive tackle Zach Clayton. Clayton had an excellent all-around day. After weighing in at 6-foot-2, 299 pounds, he ran a 4.68-second 40-yard dash. “That even shocked me,” Clayton said.
  • He had a 33.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump, second best on the team to linebacker Craig Stevens’ 10 feet, 2 inches. Clayton, who has been working out at Auburn, finished the workouts by repping 225 pounds 27 times on the bench press, tops on the team. “I think I helped myself out a lot,” Clayton said. “My goal coming into today was just to get my name out there and open a few eyes. I think I accomplished that today.”
  • Cornerback Demond Washington turned in the fastest 40 time, finishing his second run in 4.30 seconds. He was followed by receiver Terrell Zachery (4.40), safety Zac Etheridge (4.51) and receiver Kodi Burns (4.55).
  • Adams and defensive end/tight end Gabe McKenzie tied for the best vertical jump at 35 inches.
  • Ryan Pugh finished second on the bench press with 25 reps of 225 pounds, followed by McKenzie (24) and Mike Blanc (23). Here are the full stats.
  • Lots of folks in attendance, although the players say they weren't bothered by it. "It is not big deal," Burns said. "We are from the SEC, where you play in front of 80,000 week-in and week-out. These scouts are just people. It is all about performing under pressure."
  • But, the players' livelihood isn't usually on the line during a game. "A lot if on the line out here," linebacker Josh Bynes said. "One messed up time or drill can make you not get drafted."
  • Pugh on that subject: "It's almost like it's four years in one day. I don't think it's that intense as far as combining all four years in one day, but it's just a way to fill in the blanks as far as what kind of player you are. They get to interact with you and see how you interact with your teammates, and they want to see you compete. I think I did that today. I think we all did that today."
  • Bynes, on his expectations on draft day: "It doesn't really matter what they say. All that matters is what happens when the draft comes around, April 28, 29 and 30. You may hear your name called or you might not. The only thing you can do is wait to hear your name called. You may go in the first round or the sixth round, because I have seen that before over the years. So we are going to have to just wait and see what happens."
  • Running back Mario Fannin didn't do a whole lot of drills Tuesday after an impressive combine at which he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash. He still wanted to get the scouts' attention with some positional work, though. "Hopefully I've grabbed it," he said. "Here at Auburn this past season, I kind of did the third down thing. I feel like I did a great job as far as helping my teammates out in that aspect of the game. I just wanted to also show them that I can do other things, too. I think they saw it today.
  • Left tackle Lee Ziemba followed up his combine performance by doing some positional drills. He said the feedback from coaches and scouts isn't always instant. "More of a mystery than you think," he said. "It's a waiting game."
  • Ziemba felt like he's been shuttling between cities constantly since winning the BCS title. "Since Arizona it has been a whirlwind," he said. "It's been living in and out of suitcases and going from on place to another. You've got to do what you've got to do." He can't wait for the draft to get here. "I'm ready to get settled down somewhere and start playing some football. That's what I'm ready for."
  • It was a long day and, quite honestly, my video was a little lacking, so I'm not going to bother posting it. But if you're interested in seeing some video (with better inside access than me), have a look at this one done by Auburn. Footage of Clayton's bench press is about 7 minutes in, Fairley's position drills are 11 minutes in and Newton's throwing is around the 12-minute mark.


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Andy Bitter said...

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