INDIANAPOLIS – The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine is off and running from Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.
The running however, as in 40-yard dashes and various shuttle drills, will take place tomorrow. But for now, offensive linemen, tight ends and specialists will make their way through the media workroom. So will a number of coaches and general managers.
11:00 AM Update
Several NFL coaches and GMs have already made their way to the podium, including the NFL Executive of the Year, San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke.
Baalke spoke exclusively with 49ers.com prior to his podium appearance, telling TV49’s Scott Kegley, his executive award was a “team award.” Baalke also said the team’s scouting department have whittled down a list of 800 players into 150 they’ve deemed to be “draft-able.”
Perhaps the best quote from Baalke’s press conference was an anecdote about All-Pro defensive tackle Justin Smith. Baalke ran into Smith days after the 49ers season ended. Baalke did so at team headquarters where he found Smith dripping in sweat after a workout.
Baalke wondered why Smith was already back in the building and found when Smith said, “It’s either be here or babysit at home.”
Baalke also called Smith, “a different breed.”
There’s no denying that.
Baalke also didn’t mince words when discussing the end of the 49ers season. He didn’t re-watch the NFC title game, nor did he watch the Super Bowl.
He did, however, have this to say about the New York Giants: “Hats off to them. They came in our house and beat a good football team. They deserved what they got.”
Other Baalke notes:
-Baalke likes the o-line depth in 2012. “It’s a good group top to bottom. It’s a quality group.”
-On depth of wide receivers in the draft: “There’s good players at every level of this year’s draft.” – Which guy will springboard up and improve as a professional?”
-On 49ers making strides in 2012: “I feel very good about the system we have in place.” The team has, “Full offseason to take schemes to the next level.”
-On how combine has changed over the years: “It’s a lot different than it was 15 years ago at my first combine. There’s a lot more teaching that goes into the process than there was 15 years ago when they showed up unprepared. Now, they’re very prepared. Not only for the physical part of it, but the mental part, the interview process. It’s changed.”
I’ll share Baalke’s comments to the masses later today on 49ers.com.
2:30 PM Update
Jim Harbaugh just spoke within the hour, offering plenty of memorable soundbites from his podium talk and in an informal interview session with 49ers beat writers.
Harbaugh called his outing as an Indiana team manager, “a great experience.”
The Associated Press Coach of the Year helped his brother-in-law last night in Bloomington and was even able to speak to the team after their win. “It was a great honor to be there,” added Harbaugh, who sat on the bench next to his 12-year-old nephew Riley Crean.
There, Harbaugh was “blown away” by the amount of knowledge his nephew had on basketball. Although Harbaugh’s basketball career was “well-documented,” he found himself learning more about the game from Riley.
Next, Harbaugh fielded questions about his former Stanford pupil Andrew Luck, the presumed No. 1 overall pick of this year’s draft.
Harbaugh didn’t go through the progress the Cardinal quarterback made during his time in Palo Alto like he was asked to do, but did say “He’s got all the qualities,” and is “As prepared as anyone you’ll find.”
Harbaugh added, “He’s really good, how ’bout that one?”
The biggest thing for Harbaugh is the realization he’ll have to compete against Luck for the foreseeable future. “Not going to like that,” Harbaugh said.
The 49ers coach also recruited the nation’s second-best quarterback prospect, Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor. Harbaugh spoke highly of RGIII and said he expects him to be a talented quarterback in the NFL. “Past performance usually indicates future success. He’s had nothing but success.”
Asked about the 49ers’ own quarterback situation, Harbaugh said “Alex (Smith) is our guy. That’s well-documented.”
4:00 PM Update
Stanford’s Coby Fleener just met with the media, as did tackle Jonathan Martin. Both were very accommodating and humble in their answers. Not a surprise.
However, what was most surprising was the story behind Fleener’s first name. Turns out, Coby’s mother was inspired to name her son after seeing the back of Washington Redskins lineman Joe Jacoby’s jersey. Fleener’s father preferred Bill Jr., but lost the discussion after Coby’s birth.
The Stanford tight end spoke highly of his former coaches, now with the 49ers and said that the pro team “essentially” runs the same offense as the Cardinal. What makes the three-tight end offense so effective according to Fleener is the multiple looks it can give defenses.
“Are we going to run the ball? Or throw the ball?” Fleener said. “It’s tough for defensive coaches.”
The tight end will not run in Indianapolis as he is coming off an injury, but said he’ll be ready for his pro day. There, Fleener hopes to wow coaches and scouts with the strengths of his game – speed and hands.
Lastly, Fleener made another interesting comment that was centered on teammate Andrew Luck and the amazing throws made routinely by his quarterback. “You’d watch film after practice and you’d be in awe,” said Fleener, who later called Luck, “the best he’s ever played with.”
Stay tuned for more combine coverage.
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