ATHENS, Ga. -- It had already been a confusing morning for A.J. Green. Then it almost got painful.
The star receiver was finishing a deep route in a passing drill when he tripped over a cord that was serving as a makeshift barrier. Green went down hard. There was an audible gasp from the dozens of former teammates and other onlookers -- and probably more from the scouts from 32 NFL teams who had been forced inside.
It proved to be a momentary crisis. Green emerged unscathed, and still one of the top prospects in next months’ NFL draft.
“I caught myself. I had on some gloves, so I’m all right,” Green said. “I didn’t see the rope until the last minute, so I was like, ‘Man!’”
There were 13 former Georgia football players who participated in the program’s pro day on Tuesday. They were measured, timed, weighed and evaluated by scouts, who put each through position drills.
Green was the biggest name by far. Justin Houston could join him as a first-round pick on April 28, when the draft commences. But Green has been pegged as a future pro from the day he committed to Georgia, and his three years in Athens didn’t diminish that.
“I don’t want to be just a regular receiver. I want to be mentioned as one of the greats,” Green said.
Scouts from the Cincinnati Bengals, who own the fourth pick in the draft, seemed to be hanging around Green a lot. That team figures to bring Green in for an individual workout soon, as do other teams.
But pro day nearly ended up being a bust for Green. He had done nothing except get weighed -- he came in at 206 pounds -- while his former teammates went through the weight room, ran 40-yard dashes, shuttle cones and other drills.
The plan was for Green to go through a passing drill, with former Montana quarterback Justin Roper passing to him. But on Tuesday morning a kink emerged: The NFL wouldn’t clear Roper to participate, because it has a rule that the passer in scouting drills needs to be from the Athens metro area.
Roper actually lives in Buford, which is about 45 miles from Athens. But the NFL wouldn’t sign off, and Green’s agents advised him not to take passes from anyone other than Roper, whom Green had been working with in the run-up to pro day. Former Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford was in attendance, but the NFL lockout prevented him from participating. And the passer has to be draft-eligible, so current Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray wasn’t an option either.
So after much negotiating, with Bulldogs coach Mark Richt involved, the scouts were sent inside to watch the workout online at ESPN3.com -- along with the rest of the web audience. That allowed Roper to throw passes to Green.
Green felt he put on a good show.
“I just felt like I had to go out there and run routes, catch the ball,” he said. “I didn’t really feel any pressure because I knew I could do those things.”
There was more pressure on his other former teammates for different reasons.
Houston is trying to prove he belongs in the first round. He left with a year of eligibility remaining despite getting a second-round grade from the NFL advisory committee.
Houston, speaking to the media for the first time since making that decision, said he was honestly torn.
“As of right now I feel like I made the right decision. But in due time we’ll see,” he said.
Offensive lineman Clint Boling also seems likely to be drafted. Inside linebacker Akeem Dent has seen his stock improve. As for the others -- such as defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, receiver Kris Durham, offensive linemen Josh Davis and Chris Davis -- they were angling to at least impress someone. That would mean getting a late-round pick, or at least a free agent camp invite.
“You never know what a coach or everybody’s thinking. They don’t really give you straight answers,” Dobbs said. “But I just hope I turned a couple heads and interest some people out here. But all I can do is my best.”