Bama’s Sunseri, Kouandjio, Steen perform for NFL
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Former Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri performed before NFL scouts aiming to demonstrate that his surgically repaired knee is healthy and that he made a good decision in skipping his senior season.
Sunseri, left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and guard Anthony Steen were among those performing in the Crimson Tide’s second pro day Tuesday before a couple of dozen NFL scouts. Sunseri and Steen are returning from season-ending injuries.
Like Kouandjio, who is projected by some as a late first-round pick in the NFL draft, Sunseri left school a year early. But the safety missed the final six games after tearing a knee ligament against Arkansas on Oct. 19 and turned pro despite NFL feedback showing he was anything from a fourth-round pick to an undrafted free agent.
”The deciding factor was how good my knee felt,” Sunseri said. ”A lot of guys were saying, `He’s coming off knee surgery, I don’t know if he’ll be able to do a lot of stuff. I don’t know if he’ll be able to do a pro day.’ Well, obviously, I did my pro day. I ran fairly good for a safety. I did all my footwork stuff. I did all my drills, showed I was able to open up, showed that the knee was good.”
Sunseri said discussions with Tide coach Nick Saban on the decision ”went down to the wire,” but that Saban has been fully supportive since then. The coach typically advises players to leave only if they’re regarded as first-round picks, such as fellow Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Sunseri said he was clocked in the 40 from 4.48 to 4.52 seconds, and bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times. He did drills fielding throws from brother Tino Sunseri, a former Pittsburgh quarterback, and only donned a knee brace for one drill, when he moved laterally among cones before sprinting to a finish.
He returned interceptions for touchdowns in each of Alabama’s first two games last season. He played in 34 games and started 15 during his career.
Kouandjio participated in position drills during Alabama’s first pro day on March 12 before a much larger audience of NFL execs, including several head coaches and general managers. He said he improved his vertical leap by nearly 4 inches from the combine to 31, and felt like he also bettered his 5.59 40 at the combine. No time was available.
The NFL Network reported that six teams didn’t clear him physically at the combine because of his knee. The 6-foot-7, 322-pound Kouandjio started the past two years after returning from surgery in 2011, his freshman season.
”That’s not even a worry,” Kouandjio said. ”It was never a worry for me. And it’s starting to clear up, which is what I expected.”
Kouandjio and Steen were put through drills for two-plus hours Tuesday, going head to head at the end.
”I was having fun. Why not?” Kouandjio said. ”It doesn’t hurt anybody. That’s who I am. I’m not afraid to show the coaches what I got.”
Steen missed the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma after having shoulder surgery. He’s only been fully cleared to resume workouts for the past week.
”I hope they all understand I haven’t done anything in 16-17 weeks and understand that I did my best out there,” Steen said. ”And hopefully they liked what they saw.”
Projected first-round pick linebacker C.J. Mosley only participated in the bench press. His results weren’t released.