Traditionally, the NFL combine is an event that allows college players who are entering the draft to show off their raw skills in front of their prospective coaches and general managers.
It is not an event meant to injure players.
An exceptional performance can raise a player's draft stock, and an exceptionally terrible performance can do the opposite, but overall it is just extra material to help teams make their decisions.
In this year's combine, however, three prospective first-round picks have limped off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, one of the best players of the 2009 class, may miss significant time with a stress fracture in his foot. Nonetheless, he has decided to press forward.
Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo and USC linebacker Rey Maualuga both injured hamstrings during their 40-yard dashes.
Maualuga, regarded as one of the premier college linebackers in the country, was projected by many to go to the Denver Broncos with the 12th pick.
Maualuga was interviewed by the NFL Network's Scott Hanson shortly after his run.
“I could feel it for the past two weeks,” Maualuga said. “I just wanted to come out here and compete with the very best. I wanted to show the coaches and scouts I could do everything. Now I’m just going to go to the trainer and get right and hopefully be able to do the Pro Day."
“I didn’t want to come out here and use my hamstring as an excuse," Maualuga added. "Unfortunately, it’s been bothering me, but I felt I could go. I wasn’t pressured to do it. I thought I could go out and do the 40 and do it in a good time.
Luckily the injury is not serious and Maualuga will make a full recovery, most likely in time to participate in Pro Day.
I look at this incident as a positive reflection of Maualuga's character and motivation.
The Denver Broncos defense was largely devoid of character and spirit in 2008. Linebacker Jamie Winborn was often an exception to this, but he has since been released.
Maualuga proved to me that he will be a no-excuses, 120-percent player for whichever team he ends up playing with. That is exactly the kind of character the Broncos defense needs.
There has not been a linebacker of this intensity in Denver since Al Wilson was released. D.J. Williams is a premier player and was voted defensive co-captain, but he gives the impression of being a guy who leads by example, instead of vocally.
In Maualuga, the Broncos would be getting a linebacker who would start and make an immediate impact on the defense. Aside from that, it looks like he could quickly develop the intangibles that made a player like Al Wilson a true leader and fan favorite.
Fans should look forward to seeing Maualuga show off at Pro Day, and then hope to see him drafted with the 12th pick of the 2009 draft. Now more than ever, I believe he is a pick that will pay off.