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Alabama's Jonathan Allen out to prove shoulders not a hindrance

INDIANAPOLIS -- The bench press will be in the spotlight at this year's NFL Scouting Combine, a new-look event flanked by bleachers so fans can watch it live. When Alabama star defensive end Jonathan Allen steps to the bench, his efforts will be seen by all.

Behind closed doors, however, there will be just as many eyeballs on Allen's shoulders.

A consensus top-five pick, Allen will do the bench to show he's 100 percent, despite rarely doing the exercise with the Crimson Tide. Afterward, doctors will take a closer look.

Alabama team doctor Lyle Cain told me he knows that when teams examine the scans of Allen's shoulders -- both of which have been surgically repaired -- they will say at first glance, "Man, he's got some beat-up shoulders. But they don't know the story."

Yes, Allen did have labral tears in both shoulders fixed over the course of his impressive career at Alabama. His left shoulder is moderately arthritic and the arthritis is similarly mild in his right. But there is a lot more to the story than that.

"Jonathan has really played without symptoms in his shoulders, and it's something that has not affected his performance or function," Cain told me. "It doesn't have to be treated during the season. And he's had a couple of great years."

Injuries are always important in the pre-draft process at the combine, with scores of doctors in town. These will generate interest.

Allen, who won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the nation's best defender, had both shoulders partially dislocated and subluxed in different years. The doctors fixed one two years ago for a labral tear, then fixed the other last year. There was some articular cartilage damage and arthritis.

"But he's played without any problems," Cain explained. "This is something that a lot of offensive linemen and defensive linemen have, things guys play with their whole careers. It's just a little earlier for him because he got hurt in college."

Allen is intent on doing the bench to show teams his shoulders are fine. Cain expects to answer questions from NFL teams about it. He said he'll tell them it won't be a detriment to his football career.

"Both of them have been repaired and healed," Cain said.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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