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Ted Thompson Looks on as Montee Ball Improves 40 Time at Wisconsin Pro Day

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Ted Thompson Looks on as Montee Ball Improves 40 Time at Wisconsin Pro Day

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson takes in Wisconsin's pro day. Photo by Brian Carriveau of CheeseheadTV.com.

MADISON––Ten yards was a very important distance to two people on Wednesday.

One of those people was Wisconsin running back Montee Ball who was on a quest to make up for his average to poor showing in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February, a clocking of 4.66 seconds that ranked 19th among running backs and left observers disappointed.

Ball went back to the drawing board after coming back from Indianapolis. He knew that if he could just get off to a quicker start and get a better jump, he would be able to improve his overall 40 time.

"The first 10 yards is the whole 40," said Ball. "Just getting all that down, you'll be able to cut all the other times down."

The other person interested in those first 10 yards was Packers general manager Ted Thompson, the architect of the Green Bay roster and the person who makes the final decision when it comes the players selected in the NFL Draft.

While a boatload of other NFL scouts stood at the finish line of the 40-yard dash, Thompson stood at the 10-yard line interested in getting the 10-yard split from Ball.

Thompson has been around football enough to know that the 10-yard split is just as important, and maybe more so, than the 40. It's the first 10 yards when a player shows of the explosiveness they'll need on gameday. After all, it isn't very often that a player runs 40 yards in a straight line during a football game.

After all the negative publicity that Ball received at the NFL Combine, he put a lot of doubts to rest on Wednesday by getting out of his stance quickly over the first 10 yards and improving his 40 time rather significantly.

"A lot of the scouts had me between 4.46 and 4.49, but you know how that goes," said Ball afterwards. "They average it out and come up with your official (time), so we'll see."

Official 40 times weren't available at Wisconsin's indoor McClain Center and neither were the 10-yard splits, but if the times Ball recited are accurate, he took off a tenth to two tenths off his Combine time.

Ball cited a sinus infection suffered two days before the Combine as impairing his ability to run a better 40. He also thought having adequate rest helped as well after going through several days early wake-up calls, interviews and medical tests in Indianapolis.

His performance on Wednesday certainly helped his cause. After his 40, Ball took part in approximately 15 minutes of position drills by showing off his footwork and hands as he caught passes out of the backfield.

While he says he'd be happy to be drafted by any team in any round, Ball gets the impression that the Packers could be interested in his services.

"I think they are because you hear whispers they're looking for a three-down back," said Ball, "and hopefully I've shown them that in my four years of college and today."

The Packers haven't had much of a running game since Ahman Green's heyday back in the middle part of the last decade, instead relying on the arm of Aaron Rodgers and the passing attack.

Currently on the Packers roster at running back are DuJuan Harris and a bunch of other question marks. Harris ended the 2012 season on a roll with a good late-season run, but there are questions about his ability to carry the load with a frame that's 5-8 and 203 lbs.

Also under contract are Alex Green and James Starks, but each of them missed time last year due to injury and neither was overly impressive.

Aging veterans Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant are both scheduled to become free agents at the start of the new league year, and neither has a spot guaranteed in Green Bay next season.

So perhaps there's an opening for Ball. To hear the Badgers running back tell it, Thompson apparently likes what he sees.

"He just talked to me about all the good stuff that I've been doing on tape," said Ball. "He said, 'You know how to play football. You've been doing the right things.' And he's very excited about it."

As to what round the Packers would invest a draft choice into Ball, it's all speculation at this point. But if Wednesday's workout is any indication, he may have just climbed a little higher up draft boards than anyone thought after the NFL Combine.

Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (52) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Mike's picture

Draft him if lacy is unavailable. But not in the first round. Maybe third?

Stroh's picture

Hope he ran a 4.5 and did other drills very well. If he did he should move up to being very much worth the Packers 2nd rd pick. Would love to see Montee in the G and G in '13! I had him mid 3rd after the combine, but if he shaved .15 off the time at the combine he'll move up a bit.

GBPDAN's picture

Rd1 D front or LT (if a good one is left),Rd 2 D front , Rd3 Ball or a S

dawg's picture

Ball reminds me of an up grade of Jackson in GB a few yrs back.
Ball has better collage stats than Jackson,or most others, But same size and skills! has better burst and moxy than Jackson! Late 2nd--3rd rd.
He's not an every down back in NFL, he can't take the NFL beating? Me thinks.
But- he's a trooper, hope he proves me wrong.

Stroh's picture

Jackson never proved in college he was an everydown RB. Even as a Sr he didn't start every game, Ball on the other hand has proven he's an every down RB who can take the pounding. Been doing it for over the past 2 years. Jackson had proven he was a very good reciever and blocker in college and thats what he proved to be in the NFL. I think Balls credentials as an every down RB are all there for you to see.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Ball to me reminds me of Rashard Mendenhall. Similar type of Back.
Power with quickness.

I think he would be a really good fit in Pittsburgh's offense.

dawg's picture

I like Ball, at 3 rd., take him!? arrggg?

Walty's picture

He still seems like a 3rd round back who will go in the 2nd.

packeraaron's picture

Totally agree Walty.

Bomdad's picture

Who is standing next to TT in the picture? Can't get his arms inside a frame their so bg. Strength coach?

Jamie's picture

assistant strength coach and former badger running back, Jamil Walker.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Ball made himself some money. He will be either a late 1st or 2nd round pick. The main question about ball was his speed which he really improved that.

If I'm the Packers I would draft Ball. He has power, and quickness. To me Ball proved this year that he was a complete back. His o-line was terrible at times, his QB's were dreadful at times. He still ran for what 1700 yards?

Packers need a RB badly. Alot of people think Packers don't need a RB since they have Rodgers. Why not give Rodgers some help.

I can see Ball coming in and having a rookie year very similar to Doug Martin (Tampa Bay) who was also drafted at the end of round 1.

I'm very skeptical of Lacy. Everyone wants to annoint him #1 back, but if you watch the blocking he got especially in the national championship game. He wasn't touched for the first 5 yards on many plays. Ball I think can play all 3 downs, and I'm not sure if Lacy can or not.

ArodMoney's picture

The Wisconsin running back conundrum: Huge stats in college. Dead legs in the pros.

Stroh's picture

Thats a possibility w/ Ball. He has carried the ball alot. His shelf life might be shorter, but that said, there have been other RB that carried the ball as much or more than Ball did that went on to have pretty long NFL careers.

As far as the Badger RB, I think Ball is the most talented overall RB they've had. Dayne was never as talented IMO and shouldn't have gone in the 1st, Bennett was nothing but a speed back that lacked alot of important qualities. Ball has the most complete skill set IMO. I've been saying that since he was behind that other big pounding RB (forget his name) that alot of people thought was gonna be an NFL RB. End of Balls Sophomore season I saw him play a few games and knew he would be the lead RB the next year, even tho the other guy was a Jr. He went to the NFL after his Jr year, cuz he knew Ball was gonna pass him at UW.

Evan's picture

John Clay.

Dude is built like a linebacker. 6'1", 240.

bomdad's picture

I thought highly of Calhoun being an all-around RB. Too bad he went to the Lions. Bennett has had the best pro career of any UW back in this era, or maybe Stecker if you consider him a UW back. Crazy Legs takes the all time, correct? Did Ameche ever play pro?

Stroh's picture

Calhoun was the next best. Just not big enough for every down NFL RB.

Stroh's picture

Alan Amechr won an NFL Champ w Balt IIRC.

Franklin Hillside's picture

It not the years, honey, it's the mileage.

imfubared's picture

I agree a mundo

NoWayJose's picture

The problem with Wisconsin backs is that it's just easy for them to get monster production in college. Wisco always put out an elite/massive offensive line. When you match those behemoths against Big 10 D-Lineman, it's pretty easy to rack up yards.

Not saying Ball's a stiff or anything. Just so hard to endorse a Wisco back based on production. When the measurables don't impress, makes it even harder to get excited.

packsmack25's picture

I'd prefer a decisive runner, not a guy who can't even make a decision regarding the pronunciation of his own damned name.

Evan's picture

Hey, having questions about how to pronounce one's name sure worked for LeRoy Butler...

cow42's picture

Packers need a bowling ball back that can slam through non-existant holes for 4 yards.

lacy
bell
michael

ball's not strong enough plus he won't be able to make nfl defenders miss.

ted, of bill and ted's picture

what's your opinion on lattimore cow? (under the assumption he will come back strong from his knee injury)

cow42's picture

cow likey.

RC Packer Fan's picture

The question though how will he come back? He has had 2 major knee injury's before even stepping into the NFL... Will the Knee hold up and will he ever be the player he is capable of?

cow42's picture

worth a 4th or 5th to find out.

MarkinMadison's picture

Ball is probably the best fit for the zone running game, and to me he has really good vision. Doesn't have the spin move down like Lacy, and maybe Lacy is just overall a little better athelete with a little more size. With Ball's concussion problem this year Lacy might be worth it. But I don't think the bottom of the 2nd is too high for Ball to go, while the Packers will probably have to pull the trigger at the bottom of the first or trade back to the top of the second to get Lacy.

If the Packers miss on both Bell from Michigan State will probably be there at the bottom of the fourth. I think Bell's large size and ability to push the pile would make a nice change of pace for the Packers.

Stroh's picture

Except Bell doesn't run w the power his size suggests he should. I dont know he runs w more power than Ball to be honest.

imfubared's picture

I think Ball could work out for a team that has a solid O line used to opening up holes. GB is not that O line. They spend most of their time practicing blocking for the passing game, the running game is just a whenever thing.

Ball lacks the quickness to hit the hole and is a straight ahead runner who gets most of his yardage when the clears the hole. Holes are hard to come by in the pro's.

I think he would be a great find in the third round.

Stroh's picture

I think your confusing Balls being a patiet RB w a lack of quickness. He waits for blocks to develop. But he certainly has the quickness snd decisiveness to hit a hole when its open.

brando's picture

I think we may see a line with a stronger run game next year with a healthy Bulaga, Sitton and EDS. I could be mistaken but I thought we were getting some good yardage running to the right before Bulaga went down and EDS's strength is supposed to be the run, no?

RC Packer Fan's picture

Completely agree Brando... The packers rushing attack improved dramatically when EDS went to center. Also if you noticed Lang played a lot better when EDS started playing center then when Saturday was in there..

robbiejh's picture

Ball is gonna be a good nfl rb not great but he's gonna start as long as he stays healthy. John clay was a beast tho played cb at case and horlick he use to kill us when we played him. But all those ankle injuries ruined him. Ball imo would be a dependable player in green bay. He proved he can pass protect, he can get those tough yards. I like his shake he swerves alot of lbers. Also gotta say from what i saw ball is excellent in the screen game also he's an honest recieving threat out of the
back field.

Bibbon Hazel's picture

Would be a steal in the 3rd. Otherwise, meh. I dont think the GB OL can create for Ball as much as he needs them too but then again he has better vision and decisiveness than Starks and Green.

redlights's picture

No RB is going to well in GB until ARodg agrees to run 20 times. MM gives him run/pass options but he likes to pass and the OLine and RB never get in the groove.

Stroh's picture

Very true. And each play has the run/pass option based on the D. If teams say in 2 deep safeties we have to be able to run against 7 in box.

Stroh's picture

Its not just MM its also on Rodgers to stay committed to running.

RC Packer Fan's picture

The RB can be productive without running the ball...
The checkdowns, screens and roll outs can be just as effective as simply running the ball.
Thats why I think Ball could be a good fit because he has shown reliable hands.
I agree we need a power runner (which I think Ball can be). But we also need a RB that can play in the pass game.
Thats another area i'm not sure about Lacy. I haven't seen him used in the passing game.

Stroh's picture

We need to run the ball effectively to have any hope of getting defenses out of the steady diet of 2 deep safeties. Checkdowns and screens don't help w/ that. If we ever want to open up the deep passing game that was missing all last year, running the ball effectively is the only way to influence the safeties to move forward. Teams played the safeties back no matter what last year and that will only happen when we can run the ball.

Otherwise I agree RB can be used and productive in other ways. But running the ball is the only way to influence to safeties to move forward.

imfubared's picture

I agree, we need to be able to run the ball effectively, not just run it for the sake of running it. Takes pressure off Rogers too and the O line pass protecting.
There is some talent in the draft and not just the first round. I think the Pack can get value in the second and third rounds with a decent runner.

redlights's picture

Checkdowns can be productive. But it doesn't replace a good, up-the-gut run. And that doesn't happen by itself; it comes with repetition. More runs= less sacks for ARodg; safeties up opens the deep pass; oline looks competant; existing RB's and oline become adequate without draft choices.

Ball in 3rd would be okay, but 1 and 2 need to be Defense.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree that we need a RB that can run it up the gut and gain respect of defenses. I'm just saying that in the Packers offense the RB's need to be able to be productive doing other stuff, otherwise they will get really predictable. If the RB can't block, he won't be on the field in passing situations. If he can't catch he won't be either.

I am more saying the RB needs to be able to catch, block and run to gain respect of the defense. I'm not sold that Lacy can be that guy.

darthvadner's picture

#truth

Lou's picture

The kid was nothing but productive, a TD machine that did not fumble the football, glad to see him better his 40 time and boost his chances of being selected early. It is very hard to determine college productivity translating to professional productivity, Archie Griffin won the Heisman Trophy back to back and was just a guy in the pro's.

cow42's picture

a line that can't run-block.
a coach who only talks about the run.
a mediocre/poor OL coach.
garbage RB's.
a QB who loves to call his own number.

why are we even talking about the running game.
they should just abandon it all together.

those 1 yard first down runs automatically puts the offense in a hole. just throw on every frickin' down. why waste a down with an unproductive run?

redlights's picture

To do that Cow, we'd have to have an all pro RB and invest signicantly in the oline. i don't see that happening under the salary cap.

imfubared's picture

I watched the show NFL Draft last night and it was Packer night. I kind of agree with their assessment that if Truffant is available he will be the Packs first choice only because no one has replaced Collins to date and there is a huge need to do that.
There is a lot of value still in the second and third rounds to improve some areas as well but Truffant shores up the d backs. The Pack gave up a ton of yards to the passing game last year.

Stroh's picture

We need a safety not another CB. Truffant is a CB last I checked isn't he?

RC Packer Fan's picture

completely agree.. Packers need a safety not a corner. If they want to find a developemental type CB fine, but they don't need one in the first 4 rounds...
I saw one another website that the Packers top need was CB. I'm sorry but do these people actually watch the teams play or know much about the teams? CB is one of the Packers deepest positions.

Beep's picture

Pack gave up a bunch of passing yards because the DL and LB did not have consistent pressure. There were some games that QB's had all day to pick apart the secondary. No need for CB's, need DL and LB that can break down a pocket.

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