NFL Combine spotlight will shine on Lattimore

Doctor says running back is ‘twice as far along as we ever expected him to be. He’s so self-motivated.’

jkendall@thestate.comFebruary 21, 2013 

Marcus Lattimore might not set foot on the playing surface at Lucas Oil Stadium this week. He certainly won’t do anything approaching a workout.

But the NFL Combine, which began Wednesday in Indianapolis at the home field of the Indianapolis Colts, will be critical for Lattimore’s professional football hopes, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says.

“The NFL is kind of collectively holding their breath to see where he is,” Mayock said of South Carolina’s former star running back. “From what I have heard from people that are training where he is training, he is apparently way ahead of schedule.”

Lattimore said the same thing Monday night on the “Inside the Roost” radio program, predicting he will shock the various team doctors who will evaluate him this week in Indianapolis. There will be plenty of them.

Every player who goes through the Combine is given rigorous and repeated medical screenings. For a player who was once considered a first round draft pick and has had two knee reconstructions in the past 16 months, the questions could be endless.

“People forget how important the medical piece of this is, especially for a guy like Lattimore,” Mayock said. “He’s going to get tested heavily and, if he’s ahead of schedule, that’s going to add to his value. If he can play next year, even if it’s the second half of the year, that’s going to add to his value.”

Noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who helped perform the procedure after Lattimore’s most recent injury, will attend the Combine along with Lattimore to help answer medical questions, Lattimore said on “Inside the Roost.” Lattimore, who rushed for 2,677 yards in 29 career games and set the school’s all-time touchdowns record at 41, tore the ACL in his left knee in October of 2011 and then tore three knee ligaments, including the ACL, in his right knee in October of 2012.

Andrews told USA Today that Lattimore has added 20 pounds during his rehabilitation.

“He’s twice as far along as we ever expected him to be. He’s so self-motivated,” Andrews told the newspaper. “This weight he’s put on has been all muscle, which is absolutely impossible in most cases. It remains to be seen if he can play this season. We’ve had to slow him down in certain activities because he’d get ahead of us. He’s one of the finest young men I’ve ever had the opportunity to help take care of.”

Mayock doesn’t expect any definitive answers this week despite all the poking and prodding Lattimore will undergo.

“He’s not going to be healthy this weekend. He’s not going to be healthy at the draft (in April),” Mayock said. “There’s still going to be a lingering medical question. I think he’s going to (be selected) somewhere in the third round. If he was a late-first (round) to a mid-second when healthy, I think the third round is fair for him because you’re probably going to get your most production starting two years out.”

Lattimore is one of seven former Gamecocks who will attend this year’s Combine. He will be joined by center T.J. Johnson, tight end Justice Cunningham, safety D.J. Swearinger, safety DeVonte Holloman, wide receiver Ace Sanders and defensive end Devin Taylor. Lattimore will fly to Indianapolis today along with the rest of the running backs to begin what will be four days of medical evaluations, interviews and, for some players, workouts.

“How quickly can we get (Lattimore) at 100 percent back on the field? I think that’s a lot of what we’re going to see in Indy,” Mayock said. “Unfortunately for the fans and for me, we don’t get the medical side, but we’ll start to hear that as time passes, where he really is. I think the Combine’s going to help him because of the medical side of it.”

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