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Rudolph improves Round 1 chance at Irish pro day

The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There was no jaw-dropping 40-yard dash time, no freaky numbers of any kind, but tight end Kyle Rudolph still emerged from Notre Dame's pro day on Wednesday with an aura of a player still in play to sneak into the NFL Draft's first round.

Six months removed from hamstring surgery that truncated his junior and final season at ND, the 6-foot-6, 258-pound tight end from Cincinnati, Ohio, worked out for the first time in front of discerning eyes.

"It was great to run around and be healthy," said Rudolph, who clocked in at 4.78 and 4.8 in the 40, roughly three weeks after being cleared to work out at full-throttle for the first time since the operation and at 100 percent for the first time since initially tweaking the hamstring last July.

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He was one of nine Irish draft hopefuls who performed for scouts from 28 of the 32 NFL teams Wednesday at Notre Dame's Loftus Center and clearly was the main attraction. The others trying to impress Wednesday were linebackers Kerry Neal and Brian Smith, nose guard Ian Williams, cornerback Darrin Walls, running backs Robert Hughes and Armando Allen, wide receiver Duval Kamara and offensive lineman Chris Stewart.

Rudolph will have to wait three more weeks to see if the NFL personnel types rate his workout with a passing grade. The draft, unaffected by the lockout by the league's owners, is set for April 28-30.

"They wanted to see that I'm healthy," Rudolph said. "I can tell them I'm healthy and other people can tell them I'm healthy, but until you see it, with as severe as injury as I had, to be back to normal six months later is tough. There's not many people that can do it."

Rudolph felt the hamstring tug for the first time in informal workouts last summer and was held back from full contact during the team's training camp in August.

Once the season started, Rudolph was able to labor his way to 28 catches for 328 and three touchdowns in six games, but never looked himself.

"I tried to get through it and just made it worse," said Rudolph. who missed ND's final seven games. "I reinjured it in August and it really popped in week four, the Stanford game. I was never 100 percent, but at that point, I was really struggling.

"I still kept playing, and two weeks later the MRI revealed the torn tendons."

Former Notre Dame linebacker, Dr. Brian Ratigan, performed the surgery in mid-October. The recovery time was expected to take six months.

"The rehab was very smooth," Rudolph said. "From the day I had the surgery until today and going through everything was ahead of schedule or went as planned.

"I've still got some work to do leading up to the draft, but I'm just excited about the thought of getting on a team and moving to a new city to start a new chapter in my career."

Rudolph's next chapter begins immediately. He'll visit the Falcons and many other teams in the next few weeks, an itinerary in progress and in the hands of his agent.

Rudolph's overall workout results: 34 1/2-inch vertical, 9'5" broad jump, 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, 7.24 3-cone and 12.30/12.33 in 60-yard shuttle.

Notes: Cornerback Darrin Walls opened some eyes with clockings of 4.39 and 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. ... Nose guard Ian Williams significantly improved his 40 time from what he ran at the NFL combine, with a 5.1 his best effort on the day. ... Running back Robert Hughes was a chiseled 226 pounds, down from his 237 in-season playing weight. He put up 26 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.

Eric Hansen covers Notre Dame for the South Bend Tribune


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