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January 23, 2012MOBILE | Marquis Maze doesn't know exactly what impression he'll leave the NFL scouts and coaches gathered for the Senior Bowl this week, but the former University of Alabama wide receiver knows what it won't be.
It won't be the memory of him limping off the Superdome turf with assistance during the BCS National Championship Game, not to be seen again after injuring his hamstring during a 49-yard punt return early in the Crimson Tide's 21-0 win over LSU.
And that, as much as anything, compelled him to accept an invitation from the Senior Bowl, even though the injury has yet to fully heal. So far, Maze has shown only determination, but not the speed that makes him an NFL wide receiver prospect at only 5-foot-8. On Monday, he was unable to participate in practice fully, only able to jog through individual drills with hopes of day-to-day improvement and a playing role in Saturday's annual all-star game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
"I was hoping that I wasn't still injured," Maze said. "I tried to go, but I couldn't go. Hopefully when I get some treatment and try to get out here tomorrow, or when (I can.)"
Maze said the choice to accept his invitation to the Senior Bowl was an easy one. But what was an easy choice for Maze would have been the wrong choice for others. Invited players who are nursing injuries frequently pass on the chance to play in the game out of concern that their draft status would suffer if they performed at less than full speed in front of a contingent of NFL scouts and coaches that annually numbers in the hundreds.
In every respect, it is a business decision. Money, in the form of NFL Draft status, is made and lost on a daily basis during Senior Bowl week.
"I think Marquis did a great job for us and was a great competitor, a good leader for us," said UA coach Nick Saban, who made his annual appearance at the Senior Bowl's opening South team practice at Fairhope Municipal Stadium. "Fortunately, the injury wasn't too bad. It was more than he could come back from in the (title) game, but he's rehabbing and wanted to give it a try here. We're here today to support him."
Maze said he has been treating the left hamstring pull with ice, heat, massaging and stretching, among other things. He also said it was the first time he has ever injured a hamstring.
"Like the doctor said, the hamstring takes time," Maze said. "I guess I just have to take the time right now."
Count LSU defensive back Brandon Taylor among Maze's believers where his NFL prospects are concerned.
"He's aggressive. People look at his size and figure he can be overpowered, but he wants to be the one to lay the lick on you," Taylor said. "He's the guy I was covering last year when I broke my foot. He ran a good route, and I just planted wrong. He's quick.
"We can see he's frustrated because of the hamstring. I saw it in his face when we were stretching today. Once he's running full speed, he'll show how talented he is."
Maze said the Jacksonville Jaguars are among the NFL clubs that have expressed the most interest in him.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org