Combine Notebook: Griffin, Luck Steal Spotlight

INDIANAPOLIS - Robert Griffin III proved he's the fastest quarterback at this year's NFL scouting combine.

It might not be enough to supplant Andrew Luck as the No. 1 pick.

The two finally got a chance to demonstrate their athleticism Sunday when workouts began.

Griffin showed his speed in the 40-yard dash, finishing officially in 4.41 seconds - the best of any quarterback. Unofficially, Luck ran a 4.59, the same time Cam Newton posted in 2011, but the time was later adjusted to an official 4.69, fourth among quarterbacks.

Even so, not much has changed in the rankings.

"I think what was surprising to some people was how athletic Andrew Luck is. I think a lot of people might be surprised to compare his measurables to Cam Newton from a year ago,'' NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "Cam Newton hits you over the head with a sledge hammer as far as his athletic ability; it's pretty obvious, whereas with Andrew Luck, it's sneaky athletic. "

His broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) was two inches short of Cam Newton's best in 2011, and Luck's vertical jump (36 inches) was actually better than Newton's (35 inches).

Griffin and Luck both skipped Sunday's throwing drills as planned, opting instead to do that with familiar receivers in a familiar environment during Pro Day workouts.

Justin Blackmon, the No. 1 ranked receiver in this draft class, ran the gauntlet - a drill in which players must catch balls thrown quickly in succession. Blackmon sat out the 40, as expected, after he said he hurt his hamstring last week.

Three receivers led the official results: Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, Stanford's Chris Owusu and Miami's Travis Benjamin all finished with official times of 4.36. Receivers A.J. Jenkins of Illinois and Devon Wylie of Fresno State rounded out the top five at 4.39.

Miami's Lamar Miller (4.40) was the fastest running back of the day.

Defensive linemen and linebackers will work out Monday.

But as has been the case all week, the quarterbacks were the feature attraction.

"I don't think they really hurt themselves here,'' Mayock said. "Most teams will take into account and appreciate the fact that they worked out. Those two quarterbacks are specials kids, and what they did in gym shorts today isn't going to change anything. Outside of not throwing the football, nothing is going to change. Both of them had athletic days (today) which I knew they would.''

NFL TO KICKOFF SEASON SEPT. 5: The NFL says it will open the season Wednesday, Sept. 5, to avoid a conflict with President Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention the following night.

The season usually begins on a Thursday night, but Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the change for this season on Tuesday.

The Super Bowl champion New York Giants will host the season-opener at MetLife Stadium against a team to be announced at a later date. Starting time is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EST.

FANS WELCOME: A little more than three weeks after the NFL allowed fans to watch the Super Bowl's media day for the first time, league officials let a smattering of fans watch the combine workouts for the first time.

The league gave out about 250 free tickets to some of Sunday's workouts.

NFL Network televises the performances, but league officials traditionally have kept the workouts closed because they didn't want spectators becoming a distraction by cheering.

On Sunday, fans got to see the showcase group and the head-to-head battle between Griffin and Luck.

CRICK ALMOST READY: Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick is nearly recovered from the pectoral tear that cost him more than half his senior season.

When his college career ended, he was eighth on the school's career sacks (20), including 9 1/2 in both 2009 and 2010. Now he's trying to prove he's healthy in time for April's draft.

"I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there,'' he said. "I'm almost there. I've got to keep showing them that I'm improving, and I'm getting better.''

Crick said he can now do his normal weight-lifting routine, and he plans to do all the workouts March 8. If he's healthy, Crick might be a first-round pick.

"I know my question mark about the pectoral is if I'm going to be able to get back to 100 percent in time for OTAs (offseason team activities),'' he said. "As long as I prove I'm on schedule for a full recovery, that's all I can do.''

TOONING UP: Good hands are just part of the Toon family's legacy.

Last season, Nick Toon caught 64 passes for 926 yards and 10 touchdowns for Wisconsin, the same school his father, Al, starred at before a successful NFL career. Al Toon caught 517 passes for 6,605 yards and 31 touchdowns from 1985-1992, all with the New York Jets.

Living up to his father's reputation is something the younger Toon has prepared for his entire life.

"I think my biggest strength is my hands,'' he said. "A receiver's job is to catch the ball. That's something my dad taught me from a young age, something I've continued to work on.''

as one of the 300-plus invitees to this week's workouts in Indy, the son is hoping to emulate his father's NFL career.

"My dad was a great route runner, had great hands,'' Nick Toon said. "He was fast, and he was one of the first of his kind as far as the big receivers go. I think I look like him a little bit when I'm out there playing. That would only make sense.''

ON THE DEFENSIVE: Janoris Jenkins and Cliff Harris were two of the nation's top cornerbacks before being kicked off their respective college teams.

Both went to the NFL scouting combine hoping to persuade teams to take a chance on them.

Jenkins was an all-Southeastern Conference pick as a junior, but he was dismissed in 2011 after the third drug arrest of his college career. He finished up at Division II North Alabama and ranked second in Division II with a 21.7-yard punt return average.

"I was honest and straight forward,'' Jenkins said. "Told them what I did. I admitted everything, I took full responsibility and that I learned from it.''

Jenkins said he's past his drug use.

"I'm done with it forever,'' he said. "I can't do it. I can't let myself do it again.''

Harris, meanwhile, broke up 23 passes, averaged 18.8 yards per punt return and set an Oregon record with four punt return touchdowns as a sophomore. He was dismissed from the team last December for violating team rules.

"I was young, I was dumb, I made a couple of bonehead moves,'' Harris said. "From the success I was having and having it taken away just like that, that was an eye-opener for me. I'm ready to prove that I'm not going to make those same mistakes.''

SUPER BOWL REPEAT?: Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard says the city that just hosted its first Super Bowl wants to do it again in the near future.

Ballard said Saturday at the NFL combine that within a few years, Indianapolis likely will put a bid together.

"There will be people within the next couple years or so, I think, that would be looking at putting something back in, or at least determining when we would be doing that sort of thing,'' Ballard said.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said the city did a "fantastic'' job of hosting Super Bowl 46, praising Ballard, Colts owner Jim Irsay and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for their efforts.

Ballard said the city belongs in the rotation because of its success this year and history of hosting major events. Indianapolis probably wouldn't host the game again until at least 2017. Super Bowls are booked through 2015, and Indy is committed to hosting the Women's Final Four in 2016.

"We know how to do these things, with Final Fours and Indianapolis 500s and all that, and I think the Super Bowl was a great success,'' he said.

Ballard said the city succeeded because of its people, including about 8,000 volunteers.

"I think we really embraced the game and embraced the entire concept of the Super Bowl, with so many people coming together, different committees all over for four years,'' he said. "I think it was a big hit.''

SOONER TIME: Oklahoma won the unofficial track meet at the NFL's scouting combine Saturday.

James Hanna ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, the fastest time by a tight end. Another Sooner, Donald Stephenson, had the fastest time among offensive linemen with a 4.94.

Stephenson and Southern California's Matt Kalil accomplished a rare feat for linemen, completing the sprint in less than five seconds. Kalil's 4.99 could help cement his spot as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the April draft. Only five offensive linemen finished in less than five seconds in the previous two years.

Stephenson, a 6-foot-6, 312-pound tackle, also had the best vertical jump by a lineman (35 1/2 inches) and the longest broad jump (9 feet, 6 inches).

IN THE MARKET: Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum still likes Mark Sanchez as his starting quarterback.

He also made it clear this week that Sanchez needs to improve in 2012.

We're fortunate he's our starter,'' Tannenbaum said.You look at the balance of his three years, four road playoff wins, there's a lot of good there. With that said, he has to play better. He has to play more consistent.''

And the Jets will consider their options this offseason, possibly even Peyton Manning if he becomes a free agent.

Coach Rex Ryan said Thursday he would consider bringing in a veteran free agent or perhaps drafting another quarterback, but he, too, has been supportive of Sanchez, who has come under increasing scrutiny inside and outside the organization.

We will do always what's in the best interest of our organization,'' Ryan said.For us, that means we are going to be prepared. We're going to look at any possibility that is out there, that, is perceived otherwise, we will look at all the possibilities.''

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore won 50 games in college, the most in Football Bowl Subdivision history, and ranks in the top five in FBS history for TD passes, yards passing, pass efficiency rating and completion percentage.

The numbers don't lie about Moore's productivity.

They also don't seem to matter to NFL scouts, who are more concerned with his height. Moore said he measured in at exactly 6-feet, a critical number, and less than 200 pounds Friday at the combine.

Moore would rather the scouts focus on what he's able to do on the field.

There's a lot of ways to evaluate a quarterback,'' he said.Some evaluate it and put a lot of emphasis on that. That's fine. Smile, and move on.''

And he compares himself to another quarterback that was supposed to be too small to play in the league - Drew Brees of New Orleans.

I love watching the way he plays, the way he moves in the pocket,'' Moore said.He's constantly moving, doing a tremendous job of finding lanes and throwing the ball down field.''

GOLDEN CHILD?: Saturday wasn't the first time Oklahoma State defensive end Jamie Blatnick was asked whether he was related to 1984 Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Jeff Blatnick.

Apparently, it's been a joking matter for years in Blatnick's family.

My dad (Anton) says I am,'' Blatnick said when asked if he and the Olympian were related.Honestly, I don't know. I might be. Why not? I don't think there are very many Blatnicks. My dad has newspaper clippings up in the top of his closet of when he won the Olympic Gold. It's just one thing he showed me a long time ago - 10 or 15 years ago. I guess I could look into it - But I'm not going to pay for it.''

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