After lost seasons, Gresham, Gronkowski duel for top TE ranking

INDIANAPOLIS — The top two tight ends in this year’s NFL draft can’t wait to play football again. That’s because they were robbed of that opportunity in ’09.

Jermaine Gresham possibly improved his draft stock after working out at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Jermaine Gresham possibly improved his draft stock after working out at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski suffered a back injury that required a microdisectomy, a procedure in which the doctor shaved off a disk that was sticking out on his spinal cord. Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham tore cartilage in his right knee during a practice. Neither player played a single snap last season.

"It was very tough watching my guys play and not being able to play with them," Gresham said. "That was the worst thing ever."

Gresham (6-5 1/4, 261) said he participated in all the drills at the Scouting Combine Saturday "because I’ve been away from football for so long." He ran a 4.76 40 — a little slower than some expected but a full second faster than Lions first-round tight end Brandon Pettigrew recorded last year — and completed 20 reps in the 225-pound bench press. Pettigrew had 22 reps at the 2009 Combine.

Rob Gronkowski chose to concentrate on interviewing and showing his imrpoved health at the Combine instead of working out.
Rob Gronkowski chose to concentrate on interviewing and showing his imrpoved health at the Combine instead of working out.

By working out here, Gresham may have temporarily pulled ahead in the tight end duel. Gronkowski (6-6 1/4, 264) did not work out, opting to wait until Arizona’s pro day (March 12) or, more likely, his own personal workout in late March in Tucson. Gronkowski said his back is 100 percent but he has been running for only a few weeks.

"I need to get my conditioning back," Gronkowski said. "I feel like every single week my speed is improving, but I feel like I need about two or three more weeks to improve it to the fullest, where it was before my back injury."

Gronkowski, who performed only the bench press here and completed a solid 23 reps, said his main goals at the Combine were to interview well and prove he is healthy. "I believe I passed everything with flying colors," he said, referring to his medical exam.

Although they rank as the top two players at their position, Gronkowski and Gresham both acknowledged they have room for improvement. Gronkowski said his hands are his greatest strength but that he could sharpen his blocking.

"I believe I had some great games blocking, and I believe I had some all-right games blocking," Gronkowski said. "I can definitely work in that area with some technique and overall coaching."

Although he would have been Oklahoma’s top returning receiver last season — he caught 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns in ’08 — Gresham believes he needs to be better at catching the ball. Asked to rate his hands on a scale of 1 to 10, he gave himself a 6.

"I need a lot of improvement," he said. "I’ve dropped balls before. That’s something I need to work on. I need to be more consistent."

Asked about the most number of balls he has dropped in a season, he simply said, "Too many." Gresham, who stood on the sideline with his crutches and played the role of cheerleader during games last season, says the time he missed gave him a greater appreciation for the game.

 "Losing the game of football makes you appreciate what it is for you," he said. "It’s a getaway. It’s fun for me. It’s something you love. You don’t want to lose it."

So which tight end is the best?

Gronkowski said, "I believe I rank up in the top three, if not No. 1. I would say I’m a top tight end because I bring a lot to the table. I bring the whole package. I believe I’m ready to step in. I’m ready to take on the big D-ends, ready to go out there and catch some passes."

Asked for reasons he thinks he’s the top tight end, Gresham responded, "I don’t think I’m the best. I’ve got room for improvement. (Gronkowski’s) a great tight end. He’s big, he’s strong."

Gresham and Gronkowski will continue their duel through their pro days. Ultimately, though, it will be the NFL talent evaluators who determine who the best man is.

"It’s up to the G.M.s to do that," Gresham said. "We just play ball. I just want to go out there and prove that I’m healthy and I can play."

Ditto for Gronkowski.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

INDIANAPOLIS — The top two tight ends in this year’s NFL draft can’t wait to play football again. That’s because they were robbed of that opportunity in ’09.

Jermaine Gresham possibly improved his draft stock after working out at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Jermaine Gresham possibly improved his draft stock after working out at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski suffered a back injury that required a microdisectomy, a procedure in which the doctor shaved off a disk that was sticking out on his spinal cord. Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham tore cartilage in his right knee during a practice. Neither player played a single snap last season.

"It was very tough watching my guys play and not being able to play with them," Gresham said. "That was the worst thing ever."

Gresham (6-5 1/4, 261) said he participated in all the drills at the Scouting Combine Saturday "because I’ve been away from football for so long." He ran a 4.76 40 — a little slower than some expected but a full second faster than Lions first-round tight end Brandon Pettigrew recorded last year — and completed 20 reps in the 225-pound bench press. Pettigrew had 22 reps at the 2009 Combine.

Rob Gronkowski chose to concentrate on interviewing and showing his imrpoved health at the Combine instead of working out.
Rob Gronkowski chose to concentrate on interviewing and showing his imrpoved health at the Combine instead of working out.

By working out here, Gresham may have temporarily pulled ahead in the tight end duel. Gronkowski (6-6 1/4, 264) did not work out, opting to wait until Arizona’s pro day (March 12) or, more likely, his own personal workout in late March in Tucson. Gronkowski said his back is 100 percent but he has been running for only a few weeks.

"I need to get my conditioning back," Gronkowski said. "I feel like every single week my speed is improving, but I feel like I need about two or three more weeks to improve it to the fullest, where it was before my back injury."

Gronkowski, who performed only the bench press here and completed a solid 23 reps, said his main goals at the Combine were to interview well and prove he is healthy. "I believe I passed everything with flying colors," he said, referring to his medical exam.

Although they rank as the top two players at their position, Gronkowski and Gresham both acknowledged they have room for improvement. Gronkowski said his hands are his greatest strength but that he could sharpen his blocking.

"I believe I had some great games blocking, and I believe I had some all-right games blocking," Gronkowski said. "I can definitely work in that area with some technique and overall coaching."

Although he would have been Oklahoma’s top returning receiver last season — he caught 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns in ’08 — Gresham believes he needs to be better at catching the ball. Asked to rate his hands on a scale of 1 to 10, he gave himself a 6.

"I need a lot of improvement," he said. "I’ve dropped balls before. That’s something I need to work on. I need to be more consistent."

Asked about the most number of balls he has dropped in a season, he simply said, "Too many." Gresham, who stood on the sideline with his crutches and played the role of cheerleader during games last season, says the time he missed gave him a greater appreciation for the game.

 "Losing the game of football makes you appreciate what it is for you," he said. "It’s a getaway. It’s fun for me. It’s something you love. You don’t want to lose it."

So which tight end is the best?

Gronkowski said, "I believe I rank up in the top three, if not No. 1. I would say I’m a top tight end because I bring a lot to the table. I bring the whole package. I believe I’m ready to step in. I’m ready to take on the big D-ends, ready to go out there and catch some passes."

Asked for reasons he thinks he’s the top tight end, Gresham responded, "I don’t think I’m the best. I’ve got room for improvement. (Gronkowski’s) a great tight end. He’s big, he’s strong."

Gresham and Gronkowski will continue their duel through their pro days. Ultimately, though, it will be the NFL talent evaluators who determine who the best man is.

"It’s up to the G.M.s to do that," Gresham said. "We just play ball. I just want to go out there and prove that I’m healthy and I can play."

Ditto for Gronkowski.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.

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