Football

Super-human efforts provide comic book-like weekend the NFL desperately needed

Central Florida linebacker Shaq Griffin runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Indianapolis. Griffin ran a 4.38, the fastest-recorded for a linebacker at the combine since 2003. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Central Florida linebacker Shaq Griffin runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL football scouting combine, Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Indianapolis. Griffin ran a 4.38, the fastest-recorded for a linebacker at the combine since 2003. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) AP

The events of this past weekend are exactly what the NFL needed.

In some ways I can't believe I'm saying this, but the league just had a weekend in which it shined with positivity.

For all the scandals that have marred the NFL over the last year and beyond, NFL draft prospects Saquon Barkley and Shaquem Griffin showed this past weekend that there still are some triumphant, uplifting stories in the league.

And these tales came from the NFL Combine, of all places.

It started with Barkley, a projected top-5 draft pick who dazzled while starring as a running back at Penn State. Touted ahead of the combine as a high-character guy who had no major flaws, Barkley appeared super human while under the microscope.

The 6-foot, 233-pound rusher ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, showed off a 41-inch vertical leap and pushed up 29 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. I'm not really sure this guy is human.

Now, he's put some teams in a tough spot. Do the Cleveland Browns select a running back at No. 1, a prospect that is almost unheard of in a quarterbacks' league where even the best in the backfield often peak at 10 productive years? If the Browns don't take him, will he still be there at No. 4, where they pick again?

It would be quite a gamble to pass on a guy who appears to be nearly flawless at No. 1 and risk not getting him at all. That being said, as much as he looks like a sure thing, the four quarterbacks who will likely be first-round picks - Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield - all have major questions.

If I'm Cleveland, I take Barkley at No. 1 and wait to gamble on one of those guys at No. 4.

If the Browns decide to go with a QB at No. 1, do the Giants take him at No. 2 and hope Eli Manning has a few good years left or do they draft their "quarterback of the future?" Decisions, decisions.

Another player added some intrigue for different reasons.

On the opposite side of the spectrum as Barkley, Griffin jumped into the limelight as well. Unlike Barkley, Griffin - who has prospered in football despite having had his left hand amputated as a child - is more of a long shot. Yet, he looked like anything but that at the combine.

Using a prosthetic, Griffin wowed scouts with 20 reps in the bench press and further left their jaws dropped when he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, the fastest by a linebacker at the combine since 2003. He's not your typical prospect, but he clearly showed he belongs.

These two helped put the NFL in the spotlight for the right reasons for once. No kneeling, no battered women and no arrests. Heck, not even Aldon Smith could screw this one up, but it's not for a lack of trying. There's a warrant out for his arrest amid allegations of assault.

Shocker.

Yet, Barkley and Griffin are the ones in the spotlight, and that's a great thing for the league. Both are high-character guys who showed near super-human abilities over the weekend.

It was a storybook weekend for the NFL. Better yet, it was comic book-like.

Hey, Stan Lee, need any ideas?

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