Workouts for this year's NFL Combine got underway on the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium this afternoon as kickers and punters displayed their skills for the scouts on hand. Much of the action took place in the weightlifting facility and news rooms around the stadium.
Small-school offensive tackle Jared Veldheer of Hillsdale College has turned heads the past two days. The athletic lineman measured 6-8 and 321 pounds before completing 32 reps on the bench press. Most impressive, according to league scouts, is Veldheer's approach here in Indianapolis. Unlike prior small-school players that have attended the Combine, Veldheer has not shown a hint of being intimidated by the grand scale of the event and has displayed both a coolness and confidence.
Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas, who broke his foot last week training for the Combine, underwent successful surgery last Sunday. A pin was inserted into his foot with the hopes of hastening recovery. It will take five-to-eight weeks for Thomas' foot to heal and the potential first-round pick is cautiously optimistic about getting at least one workout in for scouts before April's draft.
Offensive guard Mitch Petrus of Arkansas tied a Combine record today when he completed 45 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. In comparison Russell Okung, the highest-rated tackle in the draft, completed 38 repetitions.
Petrus may have more in store for scouts tomorrow when he takes to the field of Lucas Oil Stadium. The former fullback is considered on of the better athletes of the offensive line class and is expected to test well during the rest of the combine.
Arizona tight end Chris Gronkowski missed the 2009 season after surgery was necessary to repair a back injury he suffered in August. That did not stop the pass catching ace from entering the draft despite the fact he had another season of eligibility on the college field. Gronkowski stood in front of the combine media on Thursday and adamantly told everyone he was completely healthy. He then completed 23 reps on the bench press today. Ironically or suspiciously, Gronkowski will not run or jump for scouts at the combine and has set a date of late March as his individual workout day.
Back to the punters and kickers. Michigan's Zoltan Mesko was the most impressive prospect of the day. The former Wolverine punter was consistently banging the ball 50-plus yards, with a long of 56 yards. He also showed terrific hang time on punts.
Things really start to pick up here at the Combine tomorrow as the offensive linemen and tight ends take to the field for their long, anticipated workout.
Check out my pre-draft big board over at Sports Illustrated and get even more Combine insights at DraftInsider.net.
-- Posted by Tony Pauline, 5:43 p.m., February 26