It was one thing for the NFL teams to evaluate defensive tackle Jalen Carter’s physical profile at the University of Georgia’s Pro Day on Wednesday. There were undoubtedly differing opinions on that.
Joe Cullen, the defensive line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, is known for leading some of the most challenging positional workouts on the pro day circuit, but Carter didn’t even finish the whole set of drills he was put through. At the conclusion of the practice, Carter was observed lying flat on his back, looking fatigued as an athletic trainer appeared to treat muscle cramps or tightness.
Although though Carter received harsh criticism for his workout, which took place the day before he entered a no-contest plea to two misdemeanor charges related to an accident that claimed the lives of two people in mid-January, not everyone was ready to lash out.
An important decision-maker from an NFL franchise told USA TODAY Sports, under the condition of anonymity, “I wasn’t as harsh on him as the reports stated. Due to business concerns, the person wished to remain anonymous. I didn’t believe him to be so nasty. His workout was excellent.
It goes without saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, particularly when assessing NFL football skills at this time of year. On the same condition of anonymity, a personnel executive from another NFL team told USA TODAY Sports that Carter’s workout “wasn’t a major surprise” because it reflected doubts about his commitment to the sport.
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The variety of viewpoints on Carter in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft’s start on April 27 will be crucial in evaluating his stock. Carter has reportedly received praise as the most gifted athlete in the draft in recent weeks as Georgia finished its quest for a second consecutive national championship. He was almost surely a top-five pick, if not in contention for the league’s top overall selection in a quarterback-heavy league.
Today, it’s less certain that Carter will be selected first overall. That’s not to say that his draft stock will tank. Nonetheless, NFL executives generally concur that the appraisal of Carter’s physical characteristics is just the beginning.
On Thursday, Carter, 21, resolved his legal matters. Carter was charged with racing and dangerous driving; the incident happened just before another car crashed, killing Chandler LeCroy, a football program staffer, and Devin Willock, a passenger. Carter was sentenced to a year of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine.
Since the collision on January 15, concerns about Carter’s maturity and lifestyle have undoubtedly grown. A year ago, Travon Walker, the linebacker selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was the subject of several inquiries from opposing coaches to Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart. That is typical of the best prospects. But this is unique.
Maybe more pointed questions will be asked given the circumstances, Smart said to reporters after the workout. Just try to be sincere when discussing our interactions with Jalen here.
Carter spoke with teams, but as was to be expected, he avoided speaking to the media after practice like his colleagues did. Tuesday, when Smart attended one of the first sessions of UGA’s spring football practices, he spent time with Carter. Carter had been training alone for the past few weeks, so Smart felt it was crucial for him to re-expose himself to the other players.
Smart remarked, “I can only imagine what he’s going through internally. “Understanding how that accident turned out, there are some mental health issues that you need to be able to assist with. I can’t speak to what he’s going through; he’s got to address those questions. We will undoubtedly make all effort to assist him.
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When asked what they perceived about Carter’s mental state after returning to campus in the wake of the tragedy and with the legal matters at hand, teammates were, as to be expected, optimistic.
“Jalen is awesome. Stetson Bennett, a quarterback, acknowledged that he knows who he is after being questioned frequently about his actions following a public intoxication arrest in Dallas in January. “We all recognize him. We are aware of the risks associated with the positions we placed ourselves in, where we are right now, and how things will turn out. Be accountable. Be a mature man. The task is now ours. He is aware of that. I believe he is doing well.
The outstanding linebacker Nolan Smith, whose reputation has increased as a result of his outstanding performance at the combine, is effusive in his support of Carter.
The best partner I’ve ever had, Smith remarked. “Misunderstood individual.”
Smith claimed he was impressed by Carter’s handling of his personal situation during the combine. The arrest warrant was issued in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, after Carter arrived in Indianapolis to undergo physical examinations and meet with teams (Carter had already opted out of workouts). After turning himself in, Carter departed Indianapolis and was quickly arrested and freed. He then went back to the combine and continued speaking with organizations.
We’re trying to put our best foot forward at the combine, and that occurs,” Smith said. And after taking care of that, he returned to the combine and continued to conduct himself in a professional manner. I believe he handled it superbly.