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Gabbert wows audience at Pro Day workout

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Each of the NFL's 32 teams had at least one representative at Missouri's pro day on Thursday. On the schedule were workouts by 19 draft-eligible players, including nine Tigers and 10 from smaller schools in the state.

But NFL personnel were there to see only one of them, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, potentially the first quarterback to be selected and possibly the top pick in this year's draft. Gabbert was throwing for NFL scouts for the first time since the Tigers' Insight Bowl loss to Iowa.

"This is the heavyweight event," former Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt said shortly before Gabbert put on his show. "This is what everybody is looking for."

Gabbert didn't disappoint them. Making 49 throws scripted by his tutor, former Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach Terry Shea, Gabbert hit the vast majority.

He showed he could take snaps under center, drop back and throw, something he wasn't asked to do at Missouri, which operates mainly from the shotgun. Gabbert also displayed a strong arm by making a variety of throws. Twenty were to outside the numbers, and 23 went beyond 15 yards.

"The knock on me coming into this workout is that I was a spread quarterback," Gabbert said. "I had to go out there today and showcase my ability to take a snap from center, drop back and throw the football. The biggest thing I wanted to prove is that I can transition to an under-center offense and show my footwork."

Six NFL coaches -- Minnesota's Leslie Frazier, Tennessee's Mike Munchak, Denver's John Fox, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Rex Ryan of the New York Jets and San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh -- were present.

"[Gabbert] did an excellent job," Harbaugh said. "I think he really helped himself today."

Gabbert now will have private workouts and interviews with individual teams before the late April draft.

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Players pledge unity

MARCO ISLAND, Fla.— Some 100 National Football League players girded for the possibility of a long work stoppage Thursday morning during meetings at a swank beachfront hotel here, trying to build a spirit of unity and carving out a tactical approach for the coming months.

Less than a week after the players filed an anti-trust lawsuit against NFL owners in federal court and owners locked them out of team facilities, players closely examined the last proposal they received from owners during contract talks to ensure that everyone in Thursday's closed-door session understood why it was turned down.

Then they turned their attention to the importance of communication and continued training. They urged the league's players to stay informed, unified and physically fit as the dispute moves from the negotiating table to a federal courtroom.

"I know for a fact some guys get isolated. They get buried in that deep corner," said Tony Richardson, a running back for the New York Jets. "You've got to keep reaching out to them .?.?. this could go a long time."

When players emerged during a break in the National Football League Players Association's annual meeting Thursday, many steered clear of heavy criticism or personal attacks on the league's ownership. They said they hoped for vindication April 6 when Susan Richard Nelson, a U.S. district court judge in Minnesota, considers whether to grant the players' request for an injunction to lift the lockout.

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