NFL Scouting Combine Notebook: Injury concerns surrounding top prospects

Posted Feb 21, 2013

Georgia's Jarvis Jones will not work out and Alabama's Dee Milliner reported to need shoulder surgery following this week's NFL Scouting Combine

INDIANAPOLIS - Twenty-three Detroit Lions players are set to become free agents March 12 and not all of them are going to be re-signed.

There will be holes that will need to filling and it's wishful thinking to believe they can all be met via free agency.

The reality of the salary cap and the current state of the Detroit Lions' roster, means young players are needed to step up and contribute in 2013, including members of this year's draft class.

"We're going to need help from the draft," Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz admitted to reporters Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"Whether it's No. 5 or a second-round pick all the way to a seventh-round pick. We're certainly going to need help in the draft and we're going to have to find guys that can be productive."

The last time the Lions got immediate contributions from multiple draft picks as rookies was 2009, when Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas and DeAndre Levy all became starters. They'll need a similar effort this time around.

"Again, we've still got a long way to go before the draft and there's a lot of things that go on before that with free agency now and your ability to address some needs and things like that beforehand," Schwartz said.

"The overriding consideration is still going to be talent and our ability to fit that talent into a role that we had in mind. Whether or not that guy's on the field from day one or not, he's going to be little farther in our evaluation."

Georgia linebacker Jarvin Jones will not work out at this week's NFL scouting combine and will instead focus his efforts towards his Georgia pro day in March, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Jones is considered the top outside linebacker prospect in the draft and a player who should be on the Lions' radar with the No. 5-overall pick.

It's not unusual for the top prospects to wait to work out until their pro day. In Jones' case, teams were more interested in the medical reports regarding the stenosis in his back and neck than his 40-yard dash time. They'll get that in a month or so.

Jones led the nation in sacks (14.5) and tackles-for-loss (24.5), both Georgia records, last season. In two seasons at Georgia, he recorded 28 sacks and 44 tackles-for-loss in 26 games.

Dee MillinerAlabama cornerback Dee Milliner, projected right now to be the top cornerback taken in the draft, will undergo surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder after this week's scouting combine, according to reports.

Milliner still plans to work out at the combine with the exception of the bench press.

"The doctors have informed us that he will be 100 percent and fully recovered in time for training camp in July," one of Milliner's representatives with Impact Sports, Tony Flemming, told ESPN.

Milliner apparently suffered the injury at some point last season, but played through it.

The Detroit Lions certainly have a need to upgrade the cornerback position, but they've already dealt with their fair share of shoulder issues from the position.

Rookie Bill Bentley had his rookie season cut short because of shoulder issues this past season, and they've dealt with shoulder injuries with Chris Houston, Aaron Berry and Alphonso Smith.

Schwartz said Thursday that one of the things he values most in interior linemen is their ability to be multidimensional and play multiple roles - both guard and center.

With only seven offensive linemen usually active on game day, having an interior player who can play both – and play both well – is a luxury every team is on the lookout for – Lions included.

Bill Nagy, whom the team signed last August, has that potential. The two top center prospects in this year's draft – Alabama's Barrett Jones and Wisconsin's Travis Frederick – are similarly versatile.

"I think one of my best qualities is the fact that I can play both center and guard," Frederick said. "With the smaller rosters it's really about teams being able to have someone who can play both."

Frederick started two games each at both center and guard as a true freshman. After taking a redshirt year as a sophomore, he started the 2011 season at guard until Peter Konz got hurt at the end of the year and he moved over to center for the final three games. He played center the entire year at Wisconsin in 2012.

Frederick - who's considered a late first round to early second round pick - is trying to join a long list of Wisconsin linemen making the transition to the NFL over the past few years. Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler, Gabe Carimi, John Moffitt and Nagy are among that list.

The Lions released starting right guard Stephen Peterman following the season and have restructured center Dominic Raiola's contract to lower his cap number heading into 2013. Raiola will have to earn his roster spot in training camp.

With a number of question marks still surrounding Nagy - particularly health issues - the Lions are in need of extra stability in the interior.

"I practiced a lot at both (center and guard)," Frederick said. "Even when I was only playing one, often times I'd be practicing both of them. Knowing the other positions - let's say I'm playing guard - knowing the center position helps you tremendously.

"Knowing that this is where the center's going or getting up the line and before the center makes his call you know what he should be calling. You can be one step ahead and get to the next level. So by knowing what the other person is doing it's going to help you become a better player."

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said shortly after the season that his biggest regret from the 2012 season was relying too much on running back Jahvid Best to get his clearance from doctors to return to action.

Schwartz told reporters down in Indianapolis the team will have a backup plan in place.

"There's a reason we have a backup quarterback and it's not because we don't have confidence in Matt (Stafford) – Matt's played pretty much every game the last two years other than overtime in Tennessee – it's because you have to be prepared for all those situations," Schwartz said.

"It's tough to do now. It's tough to do with the resources that you have. You can't have – I don't want to say a quality backup – but you can't Pro Bowl players backing up every single position. You don't have enough salary cap money, you don't have enough draft picks – it's not feasible to be able to say that you can do those kind of things."

The Lions have hired Terry Heffernan as their new assistant offensive line coach.

Heffernan spent the past six seasons coaching the offensive line at Wayne State University. Prior to that he worked as a graduate assistant for the University of Michigan (2005-06) and Louisville (2004).

According to the Wayne State University website, the 2011 offensive line unit under Heffernan was known as the "Road Graders."

That season, Wayne State averaged 200.6 yards rushing, won a school-record 12 games, and made it to the Division II championship game.