Wearing an LSU helmet, shoulder pads and a yellow practice jersey, Zach Mettenberger took a mock snap and rolled hard to his right, rifling passes to former LSU receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
Less than four months after reconstructive left knee surgery, Mettenberger came away from LSU’s pro day looking a lot like the quarterback who racked up 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.
”That was one of the biggest things we wanted to show,” Mettenberger said after Wednesday’s workout, which was viewed by numerous NFL personnel. ”Just my knee health and mobility was a lot in question. I was able to roll out and throw accurate balls with something behind them.
”It was fun. I’ve been saying for a couple weeks now that I was healthy and good enough to go and I don’t think all of y’all believed me,” Mettenberger added. ”The biggest thing I wanted to do is show that I could go out there, take an explosive drop and throw down field like everyone knows I can.”
Mettenberger’s college career ended as he unloaded a 32-yard completion to Landry during LSU’s regular season finale against Arkansas on Nov. 29. Taking a hit as he threw, Mettenberger tore his anterior cruciate ligament and sprained his medial collateral ligament. Doctors gave the latter injury time to heal before repairing the ACL in January with a piece of Mettenberger’s hamstring.
LSU head athletic trainer Jack Marucci said that while ACL repairs have traditionally been performed using a piece of the patient’s patellar tendon, LSU and the Tigers’ orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Brent Bankston, have had a lot of success using hamstrings for more than a decade. Marucci mentioned a host of other LSU players who’ve had the same procedure and returned quickly to training, including running backs Stevan Ridley and Joseph Addai.
Marucci said Cybex tests — in which a machine is used to comparatively measure the strength of both legs — showed that Mettenberger’s left leg was about 95 percent as strong has his healthy leg. Mettenberger, who his right handed, pushes off with his healthy right leg when he throws.
”I showed I’m healthy enough to go through practice, compete for a job — and by the time the season rolls around in September, I should be fully healed,” Mettenberger said.
His decision to wear pads was made months ago and was not influenced by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s decision to also work out for NFL personnel in pads, Mettenberger said.
”The game is played in pads,” he said. ”I just think it’s going to be a new trend for quarterbacks to work out with pads on.”
Mettenberger missed on a few throws, twice throwing behind Beckham on crossing routes, and was breathing heavily when the workout ended.
”I’m three months out of surgery and not in playing shape. My legs are kind of tired. That’s kind of something to expect,” he said. ”I’m doing everything I can to work through that.”
Mettenberger had not yet visited any NFL clubs for private workouts, but said he has some scheduled as soon as Thursday with Jacksonville, followed by another Saturday with Detroit.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton was among numerous coaches and scouts who attended the workouts at LSU.
”It’s as good a workout as I’ve seen just with regards to the amount of throws, but to know he’s 3-1/2 months post-surgery, that’s pretty impressive,” Payton said. ”It says a lot about him — and his doctor.”
Mettenberger’s workout was conducted by LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, a former offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL. Cameron said Mettenberger’s pro day performance was a testament to the quarterback’s work ethic, and that Mettenberger is ready for the NFL.
”His skill set translates extremely well to that league,” Cameron said. ”The bottom line is the guy’s got to be tough, got to be football smart and he’s got to be able to distribute the ball to everybody else throughout his team under pressure and in tight windows. Zach can do that.”