By Sam Farmer Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — USC quarterback Matt Barkley has informed NFL teams in a letter that, although he will attend the scouting combine in Indianapolis this week, he won’t be throwing. He wants more time to heal from the right shoulder separation he suffered in November.
“Matt has been going through a very disciplined program to get back to 100 percent,” his father, Les, said Monday. “He feels great, but he takes direction from Dr. (James) Andrews.”
Andrews is a renowned orthopedic surgeon who operated on Barkley after the quarterback suffered a season-ending Grade 3 shoulder separation at the end of a Nov. 17 loss to UCLA.
Barkley had been rehabilitating his shoulder at Andrews’ clinic in Alabama before moving to an IMG training facility.
In recent weeks, Barkley indicated he was on the fence about whether to throw at the combine.
“I don’t feel like I have to,” he said at the Super Bowl in an interview with ESPN’s Colin Cowherd. “We’ll see when that time gets closer. It’ll probably be more of a game-day decision.”
While in Florida to accept an award last week, Barkley called the combine “probably the biggest test of my life,” telling the Pensacola News Journal that the two days of physical and mental examinations “is like the SAT times thousands.”
Barkley won’t be the first to pass on throwing for scouts in Indianapolis in favor of doing so in a more controlled and tailored setting at pro day on his own campus March 27. In fact, despite the frustration of teams and the league, the top quarterback prospects frequently choose not to throw.
But Barkley has a great deal to prove, and he’s not a shoo-in to be a top-10 pick. This is not a strong quarterback class, and that weighs in his favor. Some draft experts have projected him to go in the second half of the first round, but there are NFL teams that have him rated as a middle-round talent.
Barring a sharp drop in his stock over the next two months, it’s hard to imagine Barkley slipping out of the first round. It only takes one quarterback-needy team to believe in him, and the rookie salary structure under the new labor agreement means less money for a first contract and therefore less risk.
Four quarterbacks were taken in the first round in each of the last two drafts, and there have been at least two selected in the opening round of the last 12 drafts.