The NFL draft's lone highly regarded "big" back may be an even bigger gamble now for any team that selects LenDale White, but at least scouts know the other half of the stellar Southern California tailback tandem had a legitimate reason for not participating in the school's recent pro day auditions.
An MRI examination has revealed that White, whose stock has fallen because of his inability to work out for scouts, has a right hamstring tear that will sideline him for about another month and preclude him from running. That means any team selecting White will do so without the benefit of a 40-yard time, typically an important component of the draft evaluation puzzle.
LenDale White probably feels vindicated, but the revelation that he has a hamstring tear near the pelvic area could cost him any chance of getting selected in the first round.
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White's representatives on Thursday evening confirmed the MRI results, which were initially reported by the Denver Post.
"The problem LenDale faced was that he knew something wasn't right [with his hamstring]," said agent Eugene Parker, "but there was still pressure to try to run. But had he run just to satisfy people and torn the thing up again, then things would have been even worse than they are now."
How bad things are for White, who bypassed his final season of college eligibility to enter the draft and was projected as a high first-round selection, remains to be seen. Certainly it is a problem for White and for the several teams that coveted him as a first-rounder. Those teams viewed White as the lone power back with a first-round grade.
While the MRI result vindicates White, who told ESPN.com two weeks ago that he initially injured the hamstring while performing a Cybex test at the league scouting combine in late February, it still leaves scouts with an incomplete assessment of the former Trojans star.
Most teams are reluctant to invest millions of dollars in a player who has not been fully evaluated. Of course, scouts also contend that the true measure of a prospect's ability and potential at the NFL level is his body of work on the field in college and not how well he performs in predraft workouts that occur in shorts and T-shirts.
Dr. Randall Eldridge, a Denver-area chiropractor who specializes in treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and who conducted the MRI exam, said that White will recover but will probably be sidelined until mid-May. Under that scenario, White would not only be precluded from doing any more evaluation-type work before the draft but would also probably miss the rookie orientation session or mini-camp weekend of the club that takes him. Eldridge diagnosed the injury as a "moderate" tear near the pelvic region.
"I could see where he would have been in considerable pain had he tried to run," Eldridge said.
At the USC pro day on April 2, White knelt on one knee for much of the proceedings, dressed in a track suit. He took off the top of the track suit to participate in the bench press, the only drill in which White took part. White managed only 15 repetitions of the standard 225-pound bench press, a performance that was considered disappointing. By comparison, Heisman Trophy teammate Reggie Bush, a much smaller back, did 24 lifts.
Almost as concerning to scouts as White's inability to perform at the pro day was his weight of 244 pounds, six pounds heavier than he weighed at the combine. But White suggested that he actually weighed far more, 252 pounds, for the Rose Bowl national championship game against Texas.
"I've just got to get right [physically] and then I'll be fine and do everything they want me to do," White said at the time. "But right now I'm not right."
White indicated at the time he planned to return to his native Denver, meet with specialists there to gauge the severity of his hamstring problem and then hopefully work out for scouts before the draft. That will not be the case now.
In his three college seasons, White carried 541 times for 3,159 yards and 52 touchdowns. He also added 31 receptions for 331 yards and five touchdowns. A strong runner between the tackles and bullish when he got into the secondary, he ran for more than 1,000 yards in both 2004 and 2005 and was a perfect complement to the more elusive Bush.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.