Originally created 03/05/02

Some players make their case at NFL combine



INDIANAPOLIS -- Kendall Newson made a name for himself at the NFL scouting combine.

Newson, whose name might not be recognizable to most, had the kind of workout at this weekend's combine that forces NFL coaches to take notice.

"The receiver at Middle Tennessee State really helped himself," Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice said Monday, the final day of the NFL combine. "He caught everything and some were Cris Carter-type catches."

Tice was speaking about Newson, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound receiver who appeared to be one of the big winners in the rising and falling stock game that is played out annually in Indianapolis.

For some players, this is what the combine is all about - an opportunity to shine.

Some do, some don't, some choose not to even try.

But Newson, who had 65 receptions for 796 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior, capitalized on the chance to work out in front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams, and he was one player who clearly made an impression.

"He had a good workout," Cincinnati Bengals coach Dick LeBeau said. "Those kinds of guys, from a lesser-known school, can really help themselves here."

It's not just the unknown players from the unheralded schools who make breakthroughs, however.

Tice, who attended his first combine as head coach this week, cited two other players - Northwestern linebacker Napoleon Harris and Auburn offensive lineman Kendall Simmons - who piqued the interest of personnel evaluators.

And not all the players who tested better than scouts had expected are low- and middle-round prospects.

Harris, for instance, is regarded as a possible first-round selection.

The most watched contest this weekend was the one between two prominent quarterbacks - Oregon's Joey Harrington and Fresno State's David Carr.

Carr entered the weekend as the overwhelming favorite to be the first player selected at his position and the front-runner to be the No. 1 choice.

Some scouts believe Harrington closed the gap with his workout Sunday. Others, such as LeBeau, never really had them that far apart anyway.

"I think both are top prospects," LeBeau said. "I think those two would be at home in any offense, and I never really had too much of a gap between them myself."

Most coaches believed, however, that most players did help themselves, although the combine is only part of the process.

"I think most people help themselves because of the medical stuff and they answer questions," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "What happens between the lines is debatable, but a lot of teams use the combine for what it is - an information-gathering process. It's not the No. 1 thing you do to evaluate a player."

But when that player is somebody like Kendall Newson, it is significant.

"This can open up some eyes to kids," Tice said. "It all boils down to how you play."