INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree wanted to solidify his status as the top receiver in the NFL draft at this weekend’s scouting combine. Instead, he left more questions than answers.
On Saturday, NFL doctors diagnosed Crabtree with a stress fracture in his left foot. He reportedly will need surgery to insert a screw and might face a recovery of 10 or more weeks.
“It’s not a career-ending injury or anything like that,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s a good football player, and he’s got plenty of time to get well.”
NFL officials would not immediately confirm details of the injury or the surgery, though coaches were told about it during Saturday’s first drills. Crabtree was not scheduled to work out until Sunday.
NFL Network first reported the injury, and later reported that Crabtree would not have the surgery until after his pro day at Texas Tech next month, so he can run the 40-yard dash for scouts and coaches.
Only NFL Network reporters are permitted inside the seating area of Lucas Oil Stadium, where workouts are held. Crabtree was not available for interviews Saturday.
All of the roughly 330 players at the combine spend their first day getting measured and going through medical checks. Those with additional questions are often sent to a nearby hospital for further examination.
That’s apparently when Crabtree’s injury was discovered, culminating a bad week.
Despite being listed at 6-foot-3 on Texas Tech’s roster last season, Crabtree measured just slightly taller than 6-foot-1 Friday. The difference could change the opinions of some scouts, who thought Crabtree fit the mold of Larry Fitzgerald as a tall receiver.
Now there’s even a bigger problem.
Scouts may have to go through the entire evaluation process without seeing Crabtree work out in person. The draft is April 25-26, and Crabtree was expected to be picked in the top 10.
If he opted to have the surgery before running for scouts, teams would not have any workout numbers for Crabtree to measure against other prospects. The lack of information, or the injury, might not hurt his standing.
“It’s just part of the process. You can’t worry about it, that is just the way it is,” Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said. “This is unfortunate for him. The combine is great, but you watch tape and watch players perform on tape. That’s really the top evaluation.”
But it could make it harder for Crabtree to keep the top ranking at his position.
Crabtree certainly has a resume that warrants the No. 1 spot.
He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver each of the two years he played for the Red Raiders and became the first repeat winner since it was established in 1994. He also earned All-America honors the past two seasons.
As a freshman, Crabtree caught 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 TDs—all national bests and NCAA freshman records.
Last season, he caught another 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns despite being slowed by a ankle injury. The injury, his father told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in January, had already raised questions about Crabtree’s durability.
Saturday’s revelation won’t help provide those answers, though there is precedent for teams using first-round picks on players coming back from injuries.
Buffalo took running back Willis McGahee 23rd overall in 2003 after he seriously injured his knee in his final game at Miami.
“He has a history, and his history is pretty good,” said Smith, whose team has the No. 18 pick and needs receivers. “I think he’ll be OK.”
If Crabtree’s stock does drop, receivers such as Florida’s Percy Harvin and Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin could move up. That’s not how Harvin wanted to move up draft boards.
“I’m a competitor. I don’t worry about Crabtree or Maclin or any of them,” Harvin said Saturday. “I’m going to go in with the best and just line up and see what we can do.”
Crabtree’s former teammates in Indy were disappointed for their friend, but believe Crabtree will be fine.
“I know he’ll get through it because he’s a strong athlete,” Texas Tech defensive end Brandon Williams said. “I know he’ll take care of business.”