Extra Points: Combine Confidential: Heart issue could cost Lotulelei
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Star Lotulelei was expecting to wow onlookers at the NFL Scouting Combine over the weekend.
Instead the Utah product, who is the top-ranked player at his position on most team's draft boards, didn't even work out after it was revealed he is dealing with a potentially serious heart condition, one which could result in a draft day slide for Lotulelei as possible suitors deal with durability and longevity issues.
You knew something was wrong on Sunday when Lotulelei was a no-show and ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the news, finding out that Lotulelei's left ventricle is pumping at 44 percent efficiency compared to the normal range of 55 to 70 percent.
The issue is serious enough that officials at the combine asked Lotulelei to shut it down until he is evaluated by a specialist sometime this week in Salt Lake City.
On the surface, this looks like a disaster for Lotulelei, who could have been a top-five selection in April's draft.
Take a step back, however, and understand this diagnosis could have short- circuited a potential tragedy and it's certainly the best thing for Lotulelei in the long run.
If doctors can solve the issue and clear Lotulelei, who is still interviewing with teams in Indianapolis, he will still have plenty of time to impress scouts at Utah's pro day in March.
TEO TRIES TO SHIFT FOCUS BACK TO FOOTBALL
For a while, Te'o-ing surpassed Tebow-ing in Internet fame, but that will probably be the extent of the damage done to the king of the "Catfish."
That and the ribbing Manti Te'o will receive in an NFL locker room.
Te'o tried to shift the focus from the now-infamous hoax involving his fake girlfriend back to football on Saturday.
Te'o, of course, claims he was led to believe a girlfriend he had met online, Lennay Kekua, was a real person who died from cancer. In reality, a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo created Kekua out of thin air.
"It's definitely embarrassing," Te'o said at his highly anticipated press conference. "When you walk into the grocery store and you get people giving double takes and they're sitting there staring at you, it's definitely embarrassing. I guess its part of the process, part of the journey. It's only going to make me stronger and it definitely has."
The Heisman Trophy runner-up was barraged by questions on the hoax and how NFL teams have reacted to the story.
"I understand people have questions, but I've answered everything I could. For me, I'd really like to talk about football," Te'o said.
"I've said all I need to say about that. How I'm handling it going forward is doing what I'm doing, focusing on the moment, focusing on football and the combine."
At the time of his press conference on Saturday, Te'o had only met with two teams -- the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers -- but had meetings scheduled with 18 others, all looking for answers.
"Teams want to be able to trust their player," he said. "You don't want to invest in somebody you can't trust."
At the end of the day, NFL teams have dealt with far worse when it comes to talented young men, so if Te'o proves he has NFL-caliber athleticism at the combine or Notre Dame's pro day, Lennay Kekua will be quickly forgotten, at least as far as the NFL is concerned.
"What I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody that works hard," Te'o said. "Somebody who hates to lose. I always say, 'I hate losing more than I love to win.'"
Another possible hiccup for Te'O surfaced on Sunday when it was revealed he will not take part in the bench press workout due to a a stinger in his right shoulder.
Perhaps nothing is more important to NFL scouts than speed. That's why the 40- yard dash gets so much attention in Indy.
Since the turn of the century, the fastest player at the combine was LSU receiver Trindon Holliday (Denver Broncos) back in 2010, who registered an amazing 4.21 seconds, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
Jacoby Ford (Clemson, Oakland Raiders) was a tick behind the same year at 4.22. However, so-called "official times" aren't released to teams until a week or 10 days after the event and Ford was eventually downgraded to 4.28 while Holliday tumbled all the way to 4.34, giving the actual best time to Tennessee Titans star Chris Johnson, who ran a 4.24 in 2008.
A couple of skill players threatened whatever record you consider the real deal on Sunday with former Olympian Marquise Goodwin, the University of Texas wide receiver, clocking a blazing 4.27 mark in the morning, and slight Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb matching Holliday with an eye-popping 4.21 on his second attempt in the afternoon.
When the NFL Network showed a "simulcam" overlaying McCalebb and Goodwin, however, it was Goodwin crossing the finish line first and McCalebb's time was eventually downed to 4.34, making him "only" the second-fastest this year, along with wide receivers Tavon Austin of West Virginia and Ryan Swope of Texas A&M.
Perhaps the most impressive 40-yard sprint, though, was a pedestrian 4.65, and that's because it was put together by 6-foot-5, 306 pound Arkansas- Pine Bluff offensive lineman Terron Armstead.
Armstead didn't get lucky, either, since his second chance came in at 4.71, unheard of speed for a "Big Ugly." His 4.65 was better than Wisconsin running back Montae Ball (4.66), Notre Dame star Theo Riddick (4.68) and Stanford standout Stepfan Taylor (4.76).
In fact, Armstead did better than 15 different running backs, every quarterback save West Virginia's Geno Smith and Florida State's E.J. Manuel, and even bested three receivers.
"I've been blessed with a unique skill-set," Armstead said. "I'm extremely light on my feet for a big guy, I have to say. It's a blessing."
Most have projected Armstead as a third- or fourth-round pick, but if his footwork cam match his speed, he will begin moving north on most draft boards rather quickly.
"They all know about my athleticism. They know (the combine) should help me out a lot -- will help me out a lot," he said. "I've trained hard for this, so it's be relaxed and go out and do what you know how to do."
Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, a likely first-rounder, also opened some eyes by running a 4.72, while Armstead (34 1/2 inches) and Johnson (34) each posted the best vertical leap numbers among the O-linemen.
FIVE FASTEST - RUNNING BACKS
Onterio McCalebb, Auburn (4.34)
Knile Davis, Arkansas (4.37)
Kerwynn Williams, Utah State (4.48)
Jonathan Franklin, UCLA (4.49)
Michael Ford, LSU (4.50)
FIVE FASTEST - WIDE RECEIVERS
Marquise Goodwin, Texas (4.27)
Tavon Austin, West Virginia (4.34)
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (4.34)
Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (4.38)
Josh Boyce, TCU (4.38)
FIVE FASTEST - QUARTERBACKS
Geno Smith, West Virginia (4.59)
E.J. Manuel, Florida State (4.65)
Matt Scott, Arizona (4.69)
MarQueis Gray, Minnesota (4.73)
Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech (4.78)
FASTEST 40-YARD TIMES, (2000-2012) - Best time (Announced time)
4.21 (4.34) - Trindon Holliday, (WR), LSU - 2010
4.22 (4.28) - Jacoby Ford, (WR), Clemson - 2010
4.24 (4.24) - Chris Johnson, (RB), East Carolina - 2008
4.25 (4.30) - Darrius Heyward-Bey, (WR), Maryland - 2009
4.25 (4.28) - Demarcus Van Dyke, (CB), Miami - 2011
4.26 (4.28) - Jerome Mathis, (WR), Hampton - 2005
4.27 (4.37) - C.J. Spiller, (RB), Clemson - 2010
4.27 (4.27) - Stanford Routt, (CB), Houston - 2005
4.28 (4.33) - Mike Wallace, (WR), Mississippi - 2009
4.28 (4.36) - Stephen Hill, (WR), Georgia Tech - 2012
WORLD'S STRONGEST MAN
Maybe Bill Kazmaier and Mark Henry aren't at the scouting combine, but plenty of strong guys are.
Ohio University guard Eric Herman, Wake forest fullback Tommy Bohanon and Georgia linebacker Cornelius Washington proved to be eating the most spinach, each putting up 225 pounds 36 times. North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, a sure-fire first-round pick, was right behind, doing 35 reps.
All of those strongmen, however, weren't even in hailing distance of Stephen Paea's (Oregon State, Chicago) amazing 49 reps in 2011.
Most 225-Pound Bench Reps (2000-2012)
49 - Stephen Paea, (DT), Oregon State - 2011
45 - Mitch Petrus, (OG), Arkansas - 2010
45 - Mike Kudla, (DE), Ohio State - 2006
45 - Leif Larsen, (DT), Texas-El Paso - 2000
44 - Dontari Poe, (DT), Memphis - 2012
44 - Brodrick Bunkley, (DT), Florida State - 2006
44 - Jeff Owens, (DT), Georgia - 2010
43 - Scott Young, (OG), BYU - 2005
42 - Isaac Sopoaga, (DT), Hawaii - 2004
42 - Tank Tyler, (DT), North Carolina State - 2007
02/25 11:46:52 ET