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TE prospect Saunders to undergo surgery to repair left foot

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Former South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders will undergo surgery Friday to have a pin inserted in his fractured left foot, according to sources familiar with the situation.

It is the same injury that Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones and current San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree sustained in preparation for the NFL draft.

Saunders, a gifted player who damaged his draft stock last year by being kicked off the team for receiving improper benefits, had the fracture diagnosed during medical evaluations at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He went through some drills but aggravated the injury while warming up for the 40-yard dash. He didn't participate in any more drills.

Saunders went through his pro day Wednesday with the injury somewhat healed and had a decent performance, but not an ideal one.

The recovery time from surgery is expected to take roughly six to eight weeks.

Saunders, a large, rangy pass catcher known for running precise routes, was considered one of the country's premier tight ends after choosing to return for his senior year. But in the summer, Saunders met with the NCAA regarding trips he took and how they were paid for. That led to the governing body discovering football players living at the hotel for discounted rates, something South Carolina's compliance office signed off on.

Saunders acknowledged he dug himself an even deeper hole when he lied to the NCAA, a choice that cost him his senior year on the field. It also cost the Gamecocks an experienced tight end who might have been a difference maker in the 9-5 season.

"At the end of the day, the scouts and the coaches knew I made a mistake, but I didn't commit any crimes or anything," he said. "I let them know that it would never happen again. They would never hear my name anywhere but in the end zone catching passes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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