Henson showcases football skills for scouts

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2004

HOUSTON Drew Henson tried to show NFL scouts Thursday he can hit a receiver better than he could hit a curveball.

Representatives from 20 teams gathered at the Houston Texans' practice bubble to watch the former Michigan quarterback throw about 75 passes.

''I felt good,'' said Henson, a third base prospect for the New York Yankees until his release last week. ''I threw as good as I could have hoped today.''

Said Miami Dolphins general manager Rick Spielman: ''He had an extremely good workout. He showed very good arm strength and he was very accurate with all of his throws.''

Henson last played football in the 2001 Citrus Bowl. The Texans, who have a young quarterback in David Carr, took Henson in the sixth round of last year's draft and are trying to trade his rights.

A deal can't happen until March 4 under NFL rules. And if there's no trade before the April 24 draft, he goes back into the hopper, where he's been projected as a late first-round pick.

Henson's workout came near Reliant Stadium, where the quarterback he once backed up at Michigan Tom Brady was the Super Bowl MVP two weeks ago.

Head coaches Mike Sherman of Green Bay and Mike Mularkey of Buffalo were in attendance. So was Houston-area resident Roger Clemens, one of Henson's former Yankees teammates.

Henson never developed into the star the Yankees projected when they lured him from football with a $17 million, six-year deal in 2001.

The Texans scheduled this audition a day before his 24th birthday after Henson agreed to forgo $12 million remaining on his baseball deal.

The Bills were the most conspicuous presence, sending Mularkey, general manager Tom Donahoe and new quarterbacks coach Sam Wyche.

''You don't make any final decisions on these, you can only eliminate guys,'' Wyche said. ''I don't think anyone eliminated him today.''

Texans general manager Charley Casserly won't say what the Texans want, although a first-round pick isn't considered out of the question. Besides the Bills, the Packers, Kansas City, Miami and the New York Giants are considered prominent suitors.

Most teams sent scouts or assistant coaches. Giants GM Ernie Accorsi watched the workout.

Henson threw everything from little squareouts to 60-yard fly patterns. Henson threw to four receivers, including free agents Sylvester Morris and Joel Makovicka, themselves hoping to impress teams.

''After this, Drew, myself and (agent) Tom Condon will sit down, find out who's interested,'' Casserly said. ''We'll start talking about contract, which will involve Tom Condon, and we'll talk trade, which would be myself.''

Under rookie contract rules, the most he can make initially is $238,000. However, Casserly and Condon believe Henson and a team could use some creativity to earn him a larger package.

Henson hit .234 with 14 home runs, 40 doubles and 78 RBIs for Triple-A Columbus last season. He struck out 122 times and made 22 errors.

In a six-year minor league career that began on a Yankees rookie league team in 1998 and spanned 501 games, Henson hit .248 with 67 homers, 274 RBIs and 556 strikeouts. During that span, the Yankees traded him to Cincinnati and reacquired him from the Reds.

Henson was 1-for-9 and scored three runs for New York. He was a September callup by the Yankees in 2002 and 2003.

Henson left Michigan before his senior season. As a junior, he completed 146 of 237 passes for 2,146 yards. He had 18 touchdowns and four interceptions.

New York Jets offensive assistant Dick Curl acknowledged some teams watched the workout mainly to scout a future opponent. He was aware that two AFC East rivals Miami and Buffalo could have Henson next season.

''In this profession, you have to do your homework because you never know what's going to happen,'' Curl said.

Williams leaves Grambling State to work for Bucs

TAMPA, Fla. More than 20 years after an ugly breakup, Doug Williams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are back together.

The former Super Bowl MVP is quitting his job as Grambling State's football coach to work in the Bucs' front office as a personnel executive with duties that include evaluating pro players and assisting in recruitment of free agents.

''Getting out of the coaching element wasn't as hard as walking away from Grambling. Grambling is always going to be right there for me,'' Williams said, pointing to his heart.

''I think when you get an opportunity like I have here ... it makes it a little easier. At the same time, Grambling has been good for me, and I hope I've been good for Grambling. We still have to go on.''

Williams said he had not spoken to most of his former players, but planned to do so when he returned to Louisiana. He'll clean out his office and return to the Bucs in time to attend next week's NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

''We believe that some of the greatest assets of the league have been underutilized,'' Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said, explaining the decision to pursue Williams, who led the Redskins to the 1988 Super Bowl title.

''Doug has been successful at every level of football he has been involved in, and we think he'll help us become a better team,'' Allen said.

Williams leaves his alma mater with a 52-18 record in six seasons.

''It's a big shock, a huge shock,'' Grambling State spokesman Peter Forest said. ''This is a huge loss to Grambling, no question.''

Williams played for the Bucs from 1978-82 before a bitter contract dispute with former team owner Hugh Culverhouse led the quarterback to sign with the USFL's Oklahoma Outlaws.

He led Tampa Bay to the playoffs three times, including a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the 1979 NFC championship game. After he left, the franchise didn't post another winning record until 1997.

''What he accomplished here in Tampa was truly remarkable when you look at what happened here before his arrival and what happened after he left,'' Allen said. ''I was in the USFL and remember how happy we were to get a player like Doug Williams.''

Williams joined the Redskins in 1986 and led them to a 42-10 rout of the Denver Broncos in the 1988 Super Bowl. He is the only black quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

A back injury forced his retirement in 1989.

Williams became the second football coach in Grambling State history, replacing Eddie Robinson in 1997. Before that, he was a head coach at Morehouse, and his overall record is 55-26.

He also worked as a scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars and coached at Zachary, La., Northeast High School and Navy.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden approached Williams at last month's Senior Bowl. Williams was interested but didn't want to discuss anything in depth until after the college football recruiting period ended last week.

''I've always been one to say that if you have a job you take care of the job you have, and then if something else comes up you listen. That's what happened here,'' Williams said. ''I had a job at Grambling. At the same time, I don't think it would be fair to me to close the door when I had a chance to talk to Bruce.''

Growing up in Tampa as the son of a Bucs assistant, Gruden idolized Williams. He played catch with the quarterback on the sidelines before games and was devastated when Williams left for the USFL.

''I never saw a guy have command of an NFL team the way he did. ... Guys looked to him for results,'' Gruden said.

Williams harbored bad feelings about his departure from Tampa Bay until after Culverhouse died and the team was sold to current owner Malcolm Glazer, who hired Tony Dungy as coach in 1996.

When Gruden replaced Dungy in 2002, he invited Williams and other former players back to Tampa for a reunion the ex-quarterback felt was long overdue. Three of Williams' former teammates Richard Wood, Jimmie Giles and Parnell Dickinson attended Thursday's press conference.

''That's behind us. We're going to leave that part alone, and we're going to deal with what we have to deal with now,'' said Williams.

He actually was asked if he had a hex placed on the team because he was so upset about the way the team treated him.

''Let me ask you a question,'' he deadpanned. ''When I left, how many games did they win? If I had put a curse on them, I can promise you that they wouldn't have won any.''

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