INDIANAPOLIS – We’re back at Lucas Oil Stadium for our annual pilgrimage to the NFL Scouting Combine. We’ve just arrived in the media work room here at the home of the Indianapolis Colts and it’s completely full of reporters looking to hear from the top prospects. The coffee shortage is a great indication of the turnout this year. Not to worry, plenty of decaf is still available.
Coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke are scheduled to speak today and we’ll have plenty on that later. But for now, enjoy periodic updates from the media center. Players are going to begin arriving shortly to speak with us. Offensive linemen, kickers, punters, long snappers and tight ends will be the ones speaking.
10:00 AM Update
First up at the podium is Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey. And without much time passing, he was asked about potentially drafting a quarterback at the third overall pick.
“I think you have to look at all scenarios,” Gailey said. “You have to take care of things immediately and in the long term as well.”
Gailey was next asked about pass rushers, and said it looks like there’s a group of “really good” pass rushers available in the draft. Gailey said his team will be both a 3-4 and 3-4 defense. “There’s a lot of teams doing that right now… We’ll be a hybrid, or whatever you want to call it.”
10:20 AM Update
St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is now speaking to the reporters (roughly 90-percent of NFL coaches and GMs will address the media at some point this week). Asked about new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels (former head coach of the Denver Broncos), Spagnuolo spoke positively of his new hire.
“He’s proven he can work with quarterbacks and put together an offense.”
But is McDaniels purely a passing coordinator or will he utilize Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson as the focal point of the Rams offense?
“Josh has taken whatever weaponed and used it,” Spagnuolo replied.
10:40 AM Update
Baalke hasn’t stepped up to the podium, but I have an idea of some of the things he’ll say. The GM just spoke to the Bay Area beat writers on a number of topics.
Most importantly, the team will not comment on its use of the franchise tag. Across the league, 12 players have already been tagged for the upcoming season. The 49ers have yet to let their intentions be known. Baalke said he didn’t want to use the media to comment on player contract situations and that the word would get out when appropriate. He was asked repeatedly about the franchise tag, but Baalke declined to give a definitive answer.
He also said Coach Harbaugh has been in some of the scouting meetings giving occasional input. Baalke has appreciated Harbaugh’s expertise and familiarity with the current crop of NFL prospects. Baalke mentioned Harbaugh’s knowledge from college recruiting as a benefit for the 49ers. The conversation then moved to his criteria for the combine. Baalke said he values the event in Indianapolis, but no more than any other piece of the draft puzzle. He likes to see players compete in the drills, but doesn’t hold it against them if they’re unable to due to injury. Baalke will try to get as much information from the player interviews that the team conducts, but the 15-minute time limit stops them from getting all the information. “It’s a snapshot,” he said.
The teams also utilizes impromptu meetings with players at night. It’s not as formal as the sit down interviews, but information can be gathered from it. Baalke said the team will get to fly in 30 players before the draft to gain additional insight.
1:35 PM Update
Apologies for the lack of updates, but we’ve been all over the building here at Lucas Oil Stadium since 10:40 a.m. Coach Harbaugh is a busy man to say the least. Every where you turn he’s been asked for an interview. We followed along as he spoke to NFL Network and was joined by his brother Jim, head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. The interview can be seen at 3:10 p.m. ET on the network.
Harbaugh spoke to Sirius NFL next and then made his way to the podium in the work room. On being in town for player interviews, Harbaugh said he looks forward to being “knee to knee, eyeball to eyeball” with the prospects. He said there’s been adjustments as he goes from college to the NFL, but added, “We’ll go through it and figure it out.”
Harbaugh also spoke with a group of local reporters following his podium press conference. Most notably, Harbaugh talked about keeping his cards close to the vest when discussing prospects or current players on his roster. “I’m as transparent as a baggie,” he joked. The coach did however inform the media that the team is having contract discussions with the agent of soon-to-be free agent quarterback Alex Smith.
3:40 PM Update
On one side of the room, Jets head coach Rex Ryan is holding court and has the room in stitches. Interrupted by an announcement from a member of the NFL PR staff, Ryan quipped, “I was just on a roll…”
Penn State senior lineman Stefen Wisniewski is on the other side of the room, reaffirming his passion for his college. The nephew of a former NFL offensive lineman and Nittany Lion said his uncle made sure Penn State was atop the list when it was time to look at colleges. “I always loved Penn State and looking back on my decision – it was awesome,” Stefen said.
5:00 PM Update
A lot of offensive line prospects have come through the media room, but not all of them. I was looking forward to hearing from USC tackle Tyron Smith after his former teammate Taylor Mays gave such a rave review of him in our second installment of “Combine Snapshots.” But, Baylor lineman Danny Watkins spoke moments ago and was quite impressive in his own right. The 26-year-old Canadian is a former fire fighter turned footballer. He said he weighed 270 pounds by the 12th grade which put hockey out of the picture for him. Watkins’ story is unique, but his demeanor was even more impressive. Some might view his age as a disadvantage, Watkins begs to differ. “I haven’t heard one negative about it,” he said. Other highlights of his conversation included his passion for hockey, particularly “Hockey Night in Canada,” as well as the strength of Baylor University which he believes is the offensive linemen.
Posted in Announcements | 6 Comments »