By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – Everything you needed to know about the perception of the quarterback class in the 2013 NFL Draft was standing at a podium in the media center at Lucas Oil Stadium Friday.
It was an embodiment of doubt and controversy and physical, as well as metaphorical, damage. It was a symbol of something that never reared its ugly head last year, when the quarterback draft class was all about high class and high quality and the highest of high picks.
It was Matt Barkley, of USC, talking with reporters covering the NFL Scouting Combine about the status of the right (throwing) shoulder he separated late last season – an injury that caused him to miss the final two games of his collegiate career and will cause him not to throw passes during workouts here after he had originally indicated he would.
“I’m 100-percent on track with my rehab program,” Barkley said. “It’s been a slow process. I’ve had to be very patient at times with the rehab that I’ve been doing. But I’ve been in great hands under Dr. (James) Andrews, Dr. (Neal) ElAttrache on the West Coast, and Dr. (James) Tibone. I believe in the plan that’s set.
“By March 27, on my pro day (at USC), I should be perfect to throw.”
A year ago, the quarterback draft discussion was about whether Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III would be the top overall choice. Luck, the former Stanford star, was taken first by the Colts and Griffin, the former Baylor standout, was taken second by the Redskins.
Now, Barkley, once viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick, was being asked about whether he has something to prove despite his record-setting career.
“I think there’s always something to prove,” he said. “It seems right now that I’m kind of working my way up as opposed to already being on the top … I’ve been in both cases before.”
A year ago, the quarterback draft conversation was about how many of the quarterback would be selected in the first round (there were four: Luck, Griffin, Miami’s Ryan Tannehill, and the Browns’ Brandon Weeden) and how many rookies would start (there were five: the first-rounders, plus Seattle’s Russell Wilson).
Now, there are some draft analysts who say there isn’t a quarterback worthy of a first-round pick.
What are the expectations of West Virginia’s Geno Smith, viewed in some circles as having the best chance of this year’s quarterback class of being a first-rounder?
Understanding the doubts that exist, he gave a safe answer.
“My only expectation is to become as polished as I possibly can when I enter into the NFL and compete and be a competitor; that’s all I know how to do,” Smith told reporters here. “Once I set foot on a team and I’m drafted, I’m going to come in with the same mentality. It’s not going to change. I’m going to continue to grow as an athlete and a person.”
That doesn’t mean Smith is ruling himself out for a chance to start right away. He is hoping to do exactly that. But he recognizes that last year’s rookie quarterbacks “changed expectations for many quarterbacks, let alone rookies.”
Said Barkley, “There’s always going to be that comparison, whether it’s just or unjust. I don’t feel like there’s any pressure on my part to live up to them. I know every situation’s different. Whatever a player’s going into is going to be different than what they went into last year. I don’t feel there’s any need to live up to what they lived up to. I have my standards, and hopefully those are high enough.”
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