Henson feels 'good' about NFL audition

Updated: February 13, 2004, 10:28 AM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Drew Henson tried to show scouts Thursday he can hit a post pattern better than he can hit a slider.

Representatives from 20 teams gathered at the Houston Texans' practice bubble to watch Henson fire about 75 throws to four receivers.

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

The Texans own the NFL rights to Henson, who last played football for Michigan in the 2001 Citrus Bowl. If they don't trade him before the April 24 draft, he goes back into the hopper, where he's been projected as a late first-round pick. A trade can't happen until March 4.

The Texans, who have a young quarterback in David Carr, drafted Henson in the sixth round last year hoping he would give up baseball and help work out a trade.

Henson never developed into the star third baseman the Yankees sought when they lured him from football with a $17 million, six-year deal in 2001. He decided to quit baseball early this month, saying his heart was tugging him back to football.

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

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

"You don't make any final decisions on these (open workouts), 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 Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and New York Giants are considered prominent suitors.

Most teams sent scouts or assistant coaches. The only other head coach was Green Bay's Mike Sherman, and the other general managers were the Giants' Ernie Accorse and the Dolphins' Rick Spielman.

"He had an extremely good workout," Spielman said. "He showed very good arm strength and he was very accurate with all of his throws."

Kennan orchestrated the drills, calling for everything from little square-outs 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, Casserly said. However, Casserly and Condon believe Henson and a suitor could use some creativity to earn him a larger package.

Henson, mired in a deep slump to start the 2003 season at Triple-A Columbus, insisted he was committed to baseball when the Texans selected him. He finished the year with a .234 average and 122 strikeouts, and in a six-year minor-league career whiffed 556 times in 501 games.

By contrast, a good senior season at Michigan was expected to land him at or near the top of the first round in 2002, where the Texans picked Carr No. 1 overall and his home-state Detroit Lions chose Joey Harrington third.

New York Jets offensive assistant Dick Curl acknowledged some of the 20 teams were there mainly to see a future opponent. It didn't escape his notice that two other AFC East members -- Miami and Buffalo -- could have him next season.

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

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press