MADISON, Wis. -- Montee Ball's 4.66-second 40-yard dash was one of the most disappointing numbers to come out of the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago in Indianapolis. The pressure was on, then, for Ball to deliver better results Wednesday in Madison at Wisconsin's Pro Day.
And deliver he did. Ball ran 40-yard dashes of 4.46 and 4.49 seconds in his two attempts at the McClain Center, Wisconsin's indoor practice facility adjacent to Camp Randall Stadium. Ball also improved his 20-yard shuttle time from 4.40 seconds to a sharp 4.11. Ball's results ranked outside the top 15 among running backs at the Combine in both workouts, but his pro day scores would have placed him in the top three. His 40-yard dash time would rank just behind Auburn's Onterio McCalebb (4.34) and Arkansas's Knile Davis (4.37); his 20-yard shuttle time would rank just behind Texas A&M's Christine Michael (4.02) and Nebraska's Rex Burkhead (4.09).
"I was very excited," Ball said after the workouts. "I knew I was capable of getting under a 4.50, so getting a 4.46, I was very proud of myself."
Ball credited recovery from a sinus infection for his improvement over his poor combine score. "I was disappointed with [the Combine time], I knew I was faster than that and I think I proved it today." He also credited workouts with fellow Badger Devin Smith and strength and conditioning coach Jamil Walker, in which he improved his burst and acceleration in the first 10 yards. "The first 10 yards is the whole 40," Ball said.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson headlined the executives in attendance, and he was one of the many impressed by Ball's times. The Packers select 26th in the 2013 NFL draft this season -- could Ball be an option for the in the first round?
Ball suggested the Packers are interested. "I think they are. You know, I hear whispers they're looking for a three-down back, and hopefully I showed them I can do that today."
More realistic, however, may be the Packers' second pick, the 55th overall selection in the second round. Mario Puig, NFL draft expert for RotoWire.com, suggested Ball still profiles as a late second-round or early third-round pick.
"It's obvious on tape that he hits a wall at 15-20 yards, but he's explosive up to that point, and that trait is more important," Puig said.
With this year's draft lacking a Trent Richardson type (third overall in 2012), Ball could possibly be the second or third running back taken in this year's class and still fall to the late second round.
Looking at the Packers in particular, the franchise has not selected a running back in the first round since 1990. Ted Thompson's teams have never relied on a running back, and it would seem strange for the franchise to break rank this year, even if it was for Ball.
Offensive tackle Travis Frederick declined to run the 40-yard dash, leaving his poor 5.58-second mark from the combine as his only official time heading into the draft. He also did not perform the bench press Wednesday, and will let his 21 reps from the combine stand.
"Running a slow 40 doesn't neccessarily mean you aren't a good offensive lineman," Frederick said. "It just means you don't run a good 40."
Frederick wasn't concerned about his relatively low bench press numbers, either.
"Again, I thought it was more important for me to come out and show my skills in the drills that we were doing. I thought 21 was a respectable number. It might not be what I thought I needed it to be. But here, we don't do reps. We go out to be as strong as we can on game day."
Frederick spent much of his time on Pro Day working on specific offensive lineman drills focusing on the explosive, leveraged movements necessary to block NFL defensive linemen. Stuff like this:
Similarly, offensive tackle Ricky Wagner sounded like he was happy the Pro Day and workouts surrounding it were over. Wagner also chose not to run the 40-yard dash.
"I'm never running a 40 again in my life. I don't run more than 10 yards. That's not my job," Wagner joked. "I like to play football, I don't like to do track events."
Badgers defensive backs Marcus Cromartie, Shelton Johnson and Devin Smith all ran the 40-yard dash, as well. Cromartie's 4.35-second time led the pack. Johnson said he was pleased with his 4.40-second time, whereasSmith was disappointed after running a 4.50-second 40-yard dash.
UW-Platteville All-American safety Ryan McWethy also participated in the Pro Day workouts in Madison. Hs posted a 4.49 40-yard dash and recorded an impressive 37.5-inch vertical jump, the best of all participants Wednesday.