By most accounts Oregon State running back Steven Jackson and Virginia Tech back Kevin Jones are expected to be the first ball carriers selected when the NFL Draft finally arrives on April 24. Jackson may have taken another positive step in the race to become the top back taken with a strong showing at his school's Pro Day held on Thursday.
With the expectations of many that the New England could look to draft a running back with one of two first round picks, fans across Patriots Nation have shown great interest this spring in the debate over the best available back.
Jackson, a two-time PAC-10 rushing leader, did not participate in any physical activities at the NFL Combine in February as he was recovering from minor right knee surgery, so Thursday's workout was the confident player's first chance to showcase his individual skills.
According to NFL.com the 6-2, 231-pound Jackson ran 40s in 4.55 and 4.56 seconds, the short shuttle in 4.09 and the three-cone drill in 7.03. He also had a vertical jump of 37 1/2, long jump of 9-10 and did 16 lifts in the bench press.
"I wasn't too nervous," Jackson told the Oregon Statesman Journal. "It's just that a lot of teams want to see extraordinary things out of you. You want to go out and impress those guys and put up amazing numbers, but sometimes it doesn't happen. You just have to be yourself."
Jackson was personally pleased with the pass-catching ability he showed during the workout that reportedly took place in front of more than 50 NFL talent evaluators.
"The big interest was to see how I caught the ball, so I did quite a few routes," Jackson told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. "All in all I think it went pretty well. I think I put an impressive regimen together. I caught it well and I think I looked in shape. I think the coaches were pleased with my performance."
Oregon State coach Mike Riley also believed Jackson impressed those in attendance.
"They were impressed with everybody and with Steven in particular," Riley told the Gazette-Times of the reactions of the NFL observers. "They thought he looked absolutely great. He's always been a great looking guy, but he's really taken it to another level. He looks the part (of an NFL player), for sure."
Various published reports have the Patriots showing interest in former Steelers punter Josh Miller. Miller had been in Miami negotiating with the Dolphins, but the Dolphins re-signed Matt Turk on Thursday.
Miller is a nine-year veteran with a 42.9 career average and a 35.9 career net average. Last season in Pittsburgh he had 84 punts for 3,521 yards (41.9 avg.) and a 36.0 net average.
According to Friday's Boston Herald Miller was planning on having dinner with Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick last night in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Attempts to reach Miller's agent, Glenn Schwartzman, on Friday were unsuccessful.
According to a repot on ESPN.com Patriots center Dan Koppen is one of this year's biggest beneficiaries of the NFL's performance based pay program. Started in 2002, the program "supplements salaries of players whose playing time is disproportionate to their compensation." Koppen will reportedly receive $101,521 for starting 15 of 16 games played as a rookie in 2003. "It's like putting on an old pair of pants, and finding a $20 bill in the pocket, except it's a whole lot better than that even," Koppen told ESPN. "I wasn't even aware of (the program) until somebody told me about it during Super Bowl week. Hey, it's great, man." Koppen and New England teammate Tom Ashworth ($82,583) were two of 82 players that will receive checks of more than $50,000. … Running back Sammy Morris agreed to terms with the Dolphins. … The Panthers released tackle Todd Steussie. … The Steelers released running back Amos Zereoue.
Various wire reports contributed to this story.