Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE – It was not that long ago that LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger had to be helped off the field at Tiger Stadium with an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his left knee.
That was Nov. 29, 2013, against Arkansas. He had major surgery weeks later. On Wednesday, April 7, Mettenberger appeared to be the bionic quarterback at LSU’s Pro Day as he threw approximately 125 passes and completed about 115 of them using an array of multi-step drops and roll outs and even throwing on the run – something he rarely did at LSU. Often, he looked as if he had never been injured.
“It says a lot about him, and his doctor,” New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said. “It’s pretty impressive. Ten years ago, you couldn’t do that. I thought he did a real good job.”
Mettenberger showed some signs of arm fatigue as he has not been able to throw as much because of his layoff following surgery. But some of his final throws displayed as much zip as his earliest ones.
“I thought he was outstanding,” said LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, a former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator who set up the 6-foot-5 Mettenberger’s workout. “Almost miraculous, thirteen weeks after surgery. He threw over 125 balls. He missed only a handful or so. I thought it was an ‘A’ workout.”
Cameron said he could have had Mettenberger throw only 50 passes as he has seen at other Pro Days throughout his career.
“But I think arm strength matters, and I think arm endurance matters,” he said. “I thought it was an ‘A’ workout. But he’ll be an A-plus probably in another couple of months.”
The NFL Draft opens on Thursday, May 8, but Mettenberger is not expected to go until the second round on May 9 at the earliest.
The Saints may not be looking for a young quarterback and possible long term replacement for the 35-year-old Drew Brees just yet, but they still enjoyed looking at Mettenberger, who threw for 3,082 yards and was among the nation’s leaders in passing efficiency as a senior at LSU last season.
“I think it’s impressive to see Zach come out after only being injured last December and seeing him make a lot of throws today,” New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. “He’s obviously got a very strong arm – an NFL arm. That’s great to see.” Mettenberger may have also impressed some of the NFL hierarchy with his attitude. As usual, he was not satisfied.
“I know I’m capable,” he said. “People are surprised how quickly I’m recovering, but today wasn’t up to my standard. I felt like I could’ve done better. I wasn’t too pleased with myself on some of those throws today. I thought I did OK, but still a lot to improve on.”
He did enjoy some of the surprised reaction he received so quickly after the injury.
“I’ve been saying for a couple of weeks now that I’m healthy and good enough to go, and I don’t think you all believed me,” Mettenberger said. “I think that’s the biggest thing I wanted to do – show that I could go out there, take an explosive drop and throw the ball downfield like everyone knows I can.”
Mettenberger is still not 100 percent recovered from the knee injury, but he may have proven that he is already physically able to perform.
“Yeah, I think I showed that I’m not going to start the season on a PUP list,” he said in reference to NFL’s terminology for injured players – Physically Unable To Perform. “I think I showed that I’m healthy enough to go through practice and compete for a job.”