Christian McCaffrey: Skipping Sun Bowl was a 'career decision'

ByJeff Legwold ESPN logo
Saturday, March 4, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS --Stanfordrunning back Christian McCaffrey said that many of the NFL's decision-makers have asked himabout skipping the Sun Bowl to begin his preparations for the NFL draft and that he told them it was a "career decision."

McCaffrey andLSUrunning back Leonard Fournette, two high-profile players in this draft class, each decided to forgo their team's final game. Fournette did not play in the Citrus Bowl.

Thursday was McCaffrey's first time publicly discussing the decision other than a brief announcement on Twitter in December.

McCaffrey already has met with many teams at the NFL scouting combine, including his hometown Denver Broncos, and said several of the league talent evaluators had asked him about his decision not to play against North Carolina.

"I just tell them how it is. When they ask, I'm extremely honest with them, and then we move on to now and playing football," McCaffrey said Thursday. "I just know I made that decision, it's a career decision, it was a man decision, to try to protect my dream of playing and succeeding in the NFL. And whether it gave me an advantage or not, I stuck with it, and I'm here now moving on."

After several more questions about the decision, McCaffrey said he's likely done talking about it.

"That's probably all I'll talk about that anymore," he said. "I'm moving on to NFL football now."

McCaffrey said he told Stanford coach David Shaw of his decision to skip the game in December and received a standing ovation from his teammates when he informed them.

"My teammates ... every single one of them supported me, had my back," McCaffrey said. "They gave me a little ovation, and I got a lot of love from my teammates. It was one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make. I was just happy to have a lot of guys who had my back then."

NFL teams likely will ask the same of McCaffrey during their pre-draft questioning. San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, a Stanford graduate, said he understood the decision and didn't question it, but he said "some people will" in the pre-draft process.

Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway, another Stanford graduate, said he actually changed his mind about McCaffrey's decision after hearing about it initially.

"I understand it now," Elway said at the combine. "When I thought about it, kind of the old-school in me wanted to come out saying, 'Why would those guys not play? It's their last game,' this and that. But I tell you what, when you look at where the league is now and talk about the value of these contracts and these players coming out and the risk they're taking, the old salty guy in me got flipped back to understanding."

McCaffrey gained 3,864 yards in 2015, breaking Barry Sanders' single-season record for all-purpose yardage. He finished second in the Heisman voting that year. During the 2016 season, he suffered what he called a bruised hip and still led the nation with 2,327 all-purpose yards, including 1,603 rushing yards.

McCaffrey said he has told teams he believes he can be an "every-down back." He also has said that when he lines wide in the formation, "I can be a receiver'' as well as a team's full-time returner.

When it came time for him to perform at the combine, McCaffrey excelled in most of the areas he participated in.

He didn't fare well on the bench press, however, managing 10 repetitions of the 225-pound test.

That's about half of what running backs usually average at the annual gathering, and it immediately set social media abuzz over his upper-body strength.

He made up for that poor performance by running 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, ahead of Fournette, who ran a 4.51.

McCaffrey also had a terrific vertical jump of 37-plus inches, which was 9 inches more than Fournette's 28-inch jump.

Of the 33 running backs at the league's annual combine, only Tennessee's Alvin Kamara jumped farther, at 39-plus inches, and UTEP's Aaron Jones equaled McCaffrey's result.

McCaffrey did well in the broad jump, too, at a respectable 10 feet, 1 inch.

Topping off his day, McCaffrey posted a time of 6.57 seconds in the 3-cone drill, which was the second-fastest by a running back at the combine since 2003.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.