Jesus spent only 40 days in the desert. Paul Posluszny has been there 61/2 weeks.

And while the Arizona sun is both warm and enticing in January and February, there are only so many times you can practice 40-yard dash techniques.

"I'm definitely chomping at the bit," Posluszny said this week from Tempe, where he has been working out at the Athletes Performance Institute with a who's who of fellow all-Americans.

The event the Penn State graduate has been pointing - not to mention straining, lifting, running and sweating - toward since arriving in Arizona on Jan. 7, shortly after the Nittany Lions' Outback Bowl win, takes place this weekend. That's when Posluszny and his fellow linebackers will be tested at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

"I've been able to work out here with some of the best players in the country," Posluszny said. "Guys like JaMarcus Russel and Adrian Peterson. And I feel like I've been able to compete with them on an even level. That's just strengthened my confidence heading for Indianapolis."

Some NFL scouts see the 6-foot-1, 237-pounder, who likely will be making a position switch to the outside as a pro, as the best player at that position in the draft. Many view him as a late-first, early-second-round pick. In fact, two of the three draft projectors on CBS.Sportsline.com have him going to the Eagles with the 26th pick.

But there doesn't yet seem to be a consensus about the player Hall of Famer Jack Ham called the best linebacker ever at Penn State.

"Opinions are all over the board on Posluszny," said the NFL Network's Mike Mayock. "Some people think he's nowhere near as explosive or good an athlete as A.J. Hawk. . . . Most people think, at best, Posluszny is a mid- to late first-round pick. I know teams that value him in the third round.

"My take on Paul Posluszny is he might not be as explosive. He might be narrow through the hips, all these things they take shots at him for. But when you put the tape on, the kid makes plays all over the field.

"I think one of those playoff teams, somewhere 22 through 32 in the first round, is going to say, 'Wow, he's a tough kid, smart kid. He flies all over the field, and he can come in and play for us.' "

Posluszny said that thinking about matching his abilities with an NFL team's needs has helped him fill much of the down time between workouts at the elite athlete training center founded by performance expert Mark Verstegen in 1999.

"I think about the draft every day," he said. "It's our game day. I don't have to prepare to play Michigan anymore. I've just got to get myself ready for the draft. It's never out of your mind.

"My agent [Mike McCartney] and I talk about it all the time. We try to figure out which teams might need a linebacker and whether this team or that team might take me. It's an exciting thing to think about."

Posluszny was one of five Nittany Lions invited to the combine. The others are offensive tackle Levi Brown, running back Tony Hunt, defensive tackle Jay Alford, and defensive end/linebacker Tim Shaw.

"Tim is working out down in Orlando, and he and I have talked quite a bit about what to expect at the combine and in the draft," he said.

In Tempe, Posluszny has been working with a group of linebackers who are being directed by ex-Eagle Barry Gardner.

"It's great to have someone with Barry's experience to talk with," he said. "He's been through it so he can answer our questions and let us know what we can expect."

Posluszny flies to Indianapolis today. Tomorrow, he'll be measured, weighed, given a battery of psychological tests, and then get grilled by NFL coaches and executives

On Sunday, there will be more psychological tests and more interviews. Monday will bring the physical tests, skill drills and workouts.

There are very few questions about the two-time Bednarik Award winner's intelligence, poise, leadership abilities, football instincts and heart.

"Every time I turned around, [Posluszny] was knocking somebody sideways in the hole," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, who coached him at the Senior Bowl, said recently. "This guy will hit you hard and often."

If there are questions about Posluszny, they concern the knee injury he suffered in the final game of his junior season and how it might have affected his quickness.

"Coming off an injury, he didn't have the speed and looked a little lost sometimes," said Mel Kiper, ESPN's draft analyst. "I thought he was a first-rounder coming in [to the 2006 season] if he played to that level. I say second round now."

Those questions about his quickness are why Posluszny's primary Arizona focus has been improving his time in the 40-yard dash. According to one NFL scouting Web site, his best time in the 40 so far has been 4.52 seconds, his worst 4.64 - borderline figures for an outside linebacker in the NFL.

"I've been working on everything, my stance at the start, my technique for the first 10 yards, the first 20 yards," he said. "I feel like I've really helped myself by coming here and working out with the people here and all these great players."

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.