Jack Butt has no regrets about returning for his senior season at Michigan. Angelique Chengelis
Indianapolis -- Former Michigan tight end Jake Butt will not do the drills or run during the NFL Combine, but he’s happy to be here to show how far he’s come since suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Orange Bowl in December.
Butt endured the second torn ACL of his college career in his final game for the Wolverines, a few days after saying he would never have considered skipping the bowl to prepare for his pro career.
He is among 14 former Michigan players at the combine that continues through Sunday.
“It’s still been special,” Butt said Friday when asked what it’s like being here. “For me, I was excited to do all this medical stuff because I’m so far along in my rehab, I’m doing so well, I’m ahead of schedule.
“I know where the average man would be at this point in time and I know I’m ahead of that, so I’ve been really excited to show teams that. Aside from that, this is something you dream about as a kid, just getting to be out here and recognized with some of the best players in the country. That’s just been really special.”
Butt trained in California with six UM teammates and will continue rehabbing and making draft preparations in Michigan. The Wolverines’ pro day in Ann Arbor is March 24. He will not run at pro day but he may bench press.
Butt, who suffered his first torn ACL three years ago at about this time, had surgery on the right knee Jan. 10. Three months after that, he will be running, he said, and after four and a half months he will be cutting. He will return to football drills five and a half months after surgery. It’s up to the doctors when he will be cleared.
He said it’s been easier to handle the process since he’s been through it before, although then he also had a meniscus repair. This time it was what Butt called a “straight ACL” so he was able to start walking earlier.
“I know I’ll be ready whenever they clear me,” Butt said.
Butt, a co-captain last season and the Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end, returned to Michigan for his senior season because he believed the Wolverines had a special team.
He has never regretted his decision to return to Michigan.
“Absolutely not, no,” he said. “I came back, I made that decision, it was the right decision for me. We had a great year as a team, I improved upon a lot of the things that I came back to improve upon. Even playing in the bowl game, I wouldn’t change it going back.
“I was a leader on that team, I’m a captain, I love that university and just the kind of player I am, I would never sit out of a game.”
Those who know Butt best, his teammates at Michigan, say they know he will recover quickly and will be better than before.
“Jake’s tough,” said receiver Amara Darboh, also here at the combine. “I know he wanted to be out there, he wanted to finish the game with us, and it was very unfortunate what happened. He takes the rehab process very seriously, seeing him go through it. At Michigan, he was very serious about it.
“One thing about him, he always comes back better. Throughout the process he gets stronger, his mental game. He’s already a very smart player and his mental game improves also.”
Being here for the combine is a positive for Butt -- getting in front of teams and answering all their questions about his knee.
“That’s what the combine’s for, to get the medical information,” Dane Brugler, CBS Sports NFL draft analyst, said Thursday. “All 32 teams have a chance to find out what’s going on with the knee. How’s the rehab going? Is the recovery any different? Will he be ready for training camp? All these questions will be helped by the combine.
“The 40-yard dash, that’s the sexy part of the week, but the medicals are exactly why, for Jake Butt, he’s going to benefit from that. It sounds like everything’s on track.
“Does he go in the first round? Probably not. As long as everything progresses nicely with the knee, which it sounds like everything is, then I think he still will be considered a top-100 player and a guy that can potentially come in early in the season and possibly carve out a role, and a team might get him at a discount because of it.
Jake Butt on his tweet after suffering a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl, his final game at Michigan. Angelique Chengelis
“It could work at the benefit of a team. He might not go as high as he initially thought when he came back for his senior year. But for a team who might get him at a discount, I believe 100 percent Jake Butt will enter the league with a chip on his shoulder if he goes a little bit later than maybe he thought.”
Brugler doesn’t think Butt’s injury will cost him too much. He had been projected by most draft analysts as a second-round selection.
“He’s not a dynamic athlete, he’s not a dynamic blocker, but he’s well-rounded,” Brugler said. “He can do a little bit of everything. A guy you feel comfortable keeping on the field all three downs. Not going to hurt you. That type of player you can win with. Somewhere in Day 2 is probably where he was going to end up before the injury and now after the injury probably the same thing except maybe a little later.”
As Brugler suggested, Butt likely will have a chip on his shoulder going forward in the NFL. He has always had a bit of a Butt-against-the-world approach.
“This has been a lifelong dream, so there was no added motivation needed,” Butt said. “But I’ve kind of built my career on people doubting me. Came in from high school a skinny kid, not a lot of people expected me to have the career that I had at Michigan. Now there’s people out here that don’t expect me to ever play in the NFL or even play next year.
“Just knowing the kind of competitor I am, I save those tweets that I see. If I ever get tired I guarantee I’ll be doing a couple extra reps for those people.”
He joked that he started receiving tweets after the second injury from a lot of “doctors” but mostly people have been supportive.
“I definitely take mental note of the negative tweets and use it as motivation,” he said.
Butt said he has spoken to several teams, including the Lions. He also has developed a bit of a relationship with Carolina tight end Greg Olsen, with whom he shares a financial advisor.
“Obviously he’s a great player on the field,” Butt said. “But for him to reach out to me, spend time talking to me, taking time out of his busy schedule and preparing me for this process, that just speaks to the kind of guy he is too. I hope to be the same player he is some day. I think that’s what all tight ends are working toward. But even more so, to be the same man.”
He was asked if Olsen will put in a good word for him with the Panthers.
“I think so, I hope so,” he said. “We had some good conversations. It would be nice playing with him.”
Butt also has heard from Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh during his rehab process.
“He sent me a few texts, checked in on me, to see how I was doing, let me know he was thinking about me,” Butt said. “I don’t want to share anything too personal about what he said but it was nice, kind words, and I appreciated that.”