Tom Bradley’s cell phone has been ringing more frequently these days.
At least 10 NFL teams have called the former Penn State defensive coordinator in recent weeks to inquire about linebacker Michael Mauti, whom Bradley coached for four of Mauti’s five seasons with the Nittany Lions.
Mauti is in the process of rehabilitating following his third torn anterior cruciate ligament in five years, and the second such injury to his left knee since 2011.
“It’s obvious (NFL) teams have concerns about Mike’s knee,” said Bradley, who also played under Joe Paterno and was a Penn State assistant coach for 33 seasons, including 12 years as defensive coordinator and four games as the interim head coach after Paterno was fired in November 2011.
“But they also want to know how quickly he learns things and how good he is when he’s healthy. I tell them he is a fantastic player and a very skilled athlete,” Bradley said. “I tell them I think he can play in any scheme, either the 3-4 or the 4-3. He can go outside or he can go inside. And I tell them something they might not know, that he is a great special teams player. That is one of the things Mike excels at, and always has. He enjoys it.
“Lastly, I tell them what a great leader he is, especially in the locker room. He’s one of those guys who knows what to say and when, and his teammates respect him for it.”
Bradley said Mauti reminds him of former Penn State All-American linebackers Sean Lee and Paul Posluszny, a pair of second-round NFL draft picks who play for the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively.
“I do think Mike has the same football skill set as both Sean and Paul,” said Bradley, who has worked for the Pittsburgh Steelers radio network, along with other radio outlets in Pittsburgh, since leaving Penn State. “Mike has the same tackling angles, the same rush lanes, the same pass drop, and carries out his assignments the same way. He’s all about doing the right things.
“All three of those guys know how to play the game and how to prepare. If you told them to show up in parking Lot 8 in State College at 8 a.m., they would be there. They wouldn’t care what time it was. They would be there and they would be full of enthusiasm and ready to roll, lacing up their shoes.”
Mauti, who measured 6-foot-2 and 243 pounds at the recently completed NFL Scouting Combine, said he consulted with Lee before heading to Indianapolis.
“Me and Sean are close,” said Mauti, who also shares the same agent as Lee, Mike McCartney. “We spent a lot of time together when he was playing (at Penn State), I learned a lot from him about football, and just the kind of leader he was.”
Jim Bradley, Tom’s brother and the Steelers’ chief orthopedic surgeon, performed the surgery on Mauti’s left knee in early December.
Mauti told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine that he will be ready to compete once training camps roll around this summer.
“I’ve done this before,” Mauti said, when asked about yet another comeback from an ACL injury. “I know where I’m supposed to be at certain times. I’ve come off these injuries before to play at a high level.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be playing at the same level again.”
Tom Bradley played with Mauti’s dad, Rich, at Penn State in the 1970s.
Bradley isn’t sure how quickly Michael Mauti will be able to return to the field, given that his injury could take up to nine months – maybe longer - for a full recovery.
Mauti put up 28 repetitions of 225 pounds at the combine in the bench press to finish with the third-best total for linebackers, but he didn’t participate in any other events.
His balky left knee has dropped him from a potential second-round pick in April’s NFL draft to a likely seventh-rounder.
“It’s very hard to say what NFL teams will elect to do with Mike or where they might draft him,” Bradley said. “A team might decide to draft him and put him on the physically-unable-to-perform list and he sits out the year. Another team might pick him and hope he can contribute this year.
“I know Mike. He’s a great kid and he will push things to the maximum. But to come back from surgery in December that fast and be ready this summer, that would pushing it. But Mike has been through this process before and has come out of it just fine.”
Ron Musselman is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter @ronmusselman8.