Keenan Allen has been battling a sprained knee, but is ready to perform for some NFL teams.
By JOHN MANASSOFS South
It doesn't matter that
Keenan Allen is one of the top wide receiver prospects in next month's NFL Draft and that a slew of teams need the help of a tall one like Allen.
He sprained his knee in October and missed the final three games of the season. Then he did it again in late February, causing him to miss the on-field portions of the NFL Scouting Combine.
"My knee's been pretty stressful," Allen said.
A sprained knee isn't like a torn knee ligament, a major injury that requires surgery, a lengthy rehabilitation period and from which an athlete might never completely recover.
A sprained knee should heal in a relatively short period of time and once it does, it should be fine. Still, it's like Ronald Reagan once said about the economy, "Recession is when a neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours."
Nonetheless, when Allen, out of the University of California-Berkeley, interviewed with teams at the combine in Indianapolis, they did not make a big deal about it. He will still have a chance to run for teams at his pro day on April 9 in his native Greensboro, N.C.
"They were pretty chill about the injury," Allen said.
It's hard to say how teams view any injury, such are the poker faces with which NFL front office types can engage in disinformation. Sometimes they might not mind at all. Others can cause a player's stock to drop.
Last year, some projected University of Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin as high as a late first-round pick. Boykin suffered a small fracture of his right leg during the Senior Bowl while returning a punt. The Philadelphia Eagles ended up taking Boykin in the fourth round.
The bottom line is that Boykin played and it seems he played reasonably well. As the Eagles' nickelback behind Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, he made 31 tackles, totaled seven passes defended and had one sack and a forced fumble. With the Eagles' cutting Asomugha recently, Boykin could become a starter – and then his real opportunity for making money will come.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace was taken in the third round in 2009 by Pittsburgh (84th overall). On Tuesday, he agreed to a five-year contract worth $65 million with Miami.
Such was the wisdom that Allen was trying to absorb while participating in "The Panel," a show set to air on FOX Sports South in which prospects like himself are questioned by a group of current and former NFL players.
"Definitely taking it all in," Allen said while on set at the W Hotel. "Taking all the experiences in. Gaining knowledge as I go. Talking with all the elite, experienced guys."
In some ways, though, the reality of so many pre-draft activities, the sudden fame can be bracing, especially being featured with the likes of former high-profile players like Dorsey Levens, who played in the Super Bowl, first overall pick Tim Couch and Pro-Bowler Ovie Mughelli.
"Definitely seeing them on TV and then being with them is two different things," Allen said, "so it's definitely exciting."
To get where he is, the 6-foot-2, 206-pound Allen – going pro after three seasons -- had a meteoric rise at Cal. His 46 receptions as a freshman broke the previous record held by current Philadelphia Eagle DeSean Jackson. As a sophomore, his 98 receptions ranked him in the top 10 in the nation. Last season, his final one with the Bears, he caught 61 balls for 737 yards and six touchdowns, but his production was limited in part by missing those three games with the knee injury.
Allen sees himself as a versatile player. He returned kickoffs as a freshman and punts last season. He also ran the ball 30 times for 230 yards in his career, mostly on reverses.
Allen called his coach at Cal, Jeff Tedford, "a genius" and said he was disappointed to hear that the school parted ways with Tedford after the season.
"I thought it was definitely a disappointment to the program," Allen said, "being that he built it, turned the whole program around. I thought it was a disappointment."
Going all the way across the country to play football for Tedford, Allen called the move a "family" decision. That's because his brother Zach Maynard transferred there after two years at the University of Buffalo. Three other players from Greensboro also came with him, some of whom Allen said he grew up with and were like family.
Perhaps once he gets drafted – possibly in the first round – that family will celebrate with him. Some mock drafts have the Dolphins picking him as high as No. 12. Others have him going to Minnesota – bereft of receivers after the trade of Percy Harvin to Seattle – at No. 23. Carolina and St. Louis are possibilities in between.
"It's something I've been looking forward to my whole life," Allen said. "Going first round has been a dream for me. I'm just taking it all in, not really getting too focused on the press or the media or anything, but it's a great mock draft so I'll take it."