There are over 300 players in Indianapolis this week with something to prove. Some need to prove they can block, others that they're fast and still others that they can stay out of trouble. But perhaps the toughest thing to prove is that coming off a major injury you're healthy.
Convincing the NFL decision makers that despite your injury history you're still worth the risk of a high pick is a tough sell job, even when you're as talented as Florida's Cornelius Ingram and Missouri's Chase Coffman. The two tight ends know they have to win over those who will be making the draft selections two months from now.
Both Ingram, who suffered a torn ACL in August, and Coffman, who recently underwent foot surgery, were repeatedly poked and prodded during the medical exam portion of their combine experience Thursday.
"It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," said Ingram who is forecast to go in round three. "I think most teams had maybe three or four coaches and everybody did the same thing, pulling it and making sure it was stable. It wasn't that bad. I talked to an NFL player that's been through the process and he told me to be patient. So I had my mind set knowing it was going to be a long time."
The talented pass-catching tight end missed his entire senior season as he watched his Florida teammates capture their second national championship after tearing his knee up in preseason workouts last August.
Coffman meanwhile was able to put up some impressive stats this past year (90 rec., 987 yards, 10 TDs), but after trying to play through a turf toe injury for much of the year he broke his foot at the end of the Alamo Bowl, he won't have the opportunity to work out at the combine.
"I'm six weeks out of surgery," said Coffman. "As for as the medical testing, (I'm) just showing them that my foot is coming along well, that my injuries don't bother me anymore, and I'm going to be back 100 percent by whenever I need to work out."
The Missouri product is hoping that by March 19th he'll be able to participate in his school's pro day to provide some peace of mind to NFL clubs that his injuries are behind him. But between the broken foot and bone spurs two seasons ago some teams remain a bit apprehensive about the projected second-round pick.
"Two of the four years I played I had a couple of problems, but I played through those," said Coffman. "I missed a couple of games because of them. But that's just one of those things that unfortunately happened. I'm going to keep working hard to get stronger and faster and more flexible and whatever I can do to be injury-proof."
Helping his cause is his father, Paul Coffman, a former Pro Bowl tight end for the Green Bay Packers and a member of the club's Hall of Fame. The elder Coffman had an 11-year NFL career, so the bloodlines display a respectable degree of durability.
"He helps me out, telling me, 'Don't worry about this, don't worry about that. Just keep doing the things you've done to get you there in the first place.'" said Coffman.
But as much counsel as his dad has given him it won't take away the sting of being unable to work out this weekend.
"That's probably one of the most frustrating things you can go through is being injured and having to watch everybody do the workouts you can't do," he said. "It's tough to sit back and watch. If you love the game, it's hard not to be out there with the rest of the guys."
Fortunately for Ingram, who didn't have the impressive stats that Coffman was able to put up in his final season prior to injury, he will be participating. And though Ingram is still not certain he'll perform in every combine drill on Saturday he knows how important the workout is for his draft prospects.
"I feel great," he said. "I know my knee is healthy. This weekend I'll just have to run well and work out pretty decent and show that I'm back to 100 percent. And that's what I plan on doing."