With Pro Bowler Logan Mankins holding out and the Nick Kaczur's back a potential season-long issue, the Patriots were in the market for an offensive guard.
The man they picked up, former Oklahoma standout Brian Simmons, is as surprising a choice as there could be.
You see Simmons, a 6-4, 315 pound former defensive tackle who played in 42 games for the Sooners at left and right guard, has a clubfoot. He wasn't invited to the Combine and despite plenty of hype surrounding him, wasn't drafted. As his mother explained in an sad email used by David Ubben on ESPN's Big 12 blog , her son's clubfoot had landed him on the NFL reject list.
A clubfoot, according to WebMD , is a deformity that occurs in the tendons of the foot prior to birth. The tendons force the foot to turn downward and inward towards the other foot. It may result in the foot, especially after the heel, being smaller than the other foot. To correct the issue, the foot is often broken and placed in a cast to re-shape it.
According to Brandon George's article in the Dallas Morning News, Simmons wears a size 17.5 shoe on his left foot and a size 16 on his right.
George's article, written in August of 2007, notes that Simmons has had his right foot broken and re-set a staggering 16 times during surgeries.
With thousands of prospects to grade, NFL teams rely on sharing medical information. It is one of the primary reasons for the development of the Scouting Combine as we now know it. By being placed on the reject list, Simmons had virtually no shot at getting as much as a workout from an NFL team despite the fact that other professional athletes, including Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, have beaten clubfoot to enjoy productive careers.
Simmons was an often-used backup for much of his career, but a knee injury robbed him of five games during his senior campaign -- the only year in which he started at Oklahoma. Playing next to Trent Williams for much of the time, Simmons' athleticism and balance stands out on film. He proved at his Pro Day (the official Oklahoma Pro Day March 9, not Sam Bradford's throwing session March 29) that he was a legitimate draftable athlete at guard -- especially considering the relatively weak crop of talent that was available this year. Simmons measured in at 6-4 1/4, 315 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash between 5.19-5.26. He was timed at 4.75 in the short shuttle, 7.61 in the 3-cone and posted a 28" vertical jump and a 8-10" broad jump. I was disappointed, if not surprised, when Simmons wasn't drafted or immediately signed as a high priority free agent.
Fortunately for Simmons (and potentially the Patriots), New England elected to roll the dice Sunday and gave the former Sooner a shot.
I, for one, will be rooting for him.