The walk from my hotel room to my seat at the Indiana Convention Center is about 12 minutes. On the entirety of this morning’s jaunt, I pondered how I would lead off this blog. I foraged through the detritus in the back corners of my consciousness. I reached deep into its crevices, even getting a little fungus and slime-like substance under my fingernails as I searched … and I came up with nothing.
9:22 A.M. EST: Earlier this morning, the Falcons won a coin toss for the No. 3 pick in the draft. Oakland will select fourth, with the Chiefs picking fifth. The call was tails.
Personally, I would rather have seen a series of rock-paper-scissors matches to decide the pick.
9:26 A.M. EST: So much for not starting this thing until 10 a.m. … Kirk Barton of “The Ohio State University” is already at the podium, the first of the offensive linemen who were waylaid by hospital visits Thursday to filter into the room. Maybe 15-20 percent of the media here is actually in the room as Barton begins answering questions — the first of which involves the height and weight at which he measured. With the exception of the top-10 caliber players, this is virtually without fail the first query posed to anyone.
9:55 A.M. EST: Speaking concurrently … a reunion of the Football Championship Subdivision (the politically correct phrase to describe what most still call Division I-AA) Championship Game. At one podium, wide receiver Dexter Jackson of victorious Appalachian State; at the other, quarterback Joe Flacco of vanquished Delaware. Both spoke of how the Senior Bowl helped their causes; Flacco was arguably the best passer in Mobile last month after Boston College’s Matt Ryan and Louisville’s Brian Brohm pulled out of the all-star game, while Jackson was a late-week arrival who was called in after injuries decimated the collection of receivers there.
Flacco, whose stock seems to be rising like Google’s, also said he plans to do the full range of workout activities here at the Combine. No reason for him not to.
A little video on each …
10:34 P.M. EST: Utah State offensive lineman Shawn Murphy — the son of the greatest player of my lifetime eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame but not a part of it — just spoke extensively about growing up as the son of former National League MVP Dale Murphy, and why he chose football over baseball. He followed his father’s path in baseball until his junior year of high school, when he opted for the gridion … which Shawn Murphy admits he always preferred, anyway, speaking of baseball as a something of a quiet offseason interlude between football campaigns.
Murphy also might be the oldest player here; he’s 25, having spent two years in Brazil on a Latter Day-Saints mission.
10:40 A.M. EST: Wide receivers taking the stage … at one end of the room, LSU’s Early Doucet. At the other, Cal’s Lavelle Hawkins.
11:07 A.M. EST: Together to the end … Louisville wide receiver Harry Douglas and quarterback Brian Brohm are speaking concurrently; the touted passer at a podium; the somewhat less-heralded pass-catcher at a table.
11:12 A.M. EST: The lone positive of defeat is the cathartic education it often provides. Brohm learned that last fall as a season with expectations as high as Everest finished as low as the Mississippi Delta, with the C-A-R-D-S finishing a disappointing and puzzling 6-6.
“Just being able to deal with that will help me out in the future,” the quarterback acknolwedged.
11:17 A.M. EST: Brohm on the perception that his stock is falling: “I’m not going to get stressed out about it.”
11:57 A.M. EST: Colt Brennan becomes the biggest name here to not conduct his media briefing at a podium.
12:31 P.M. EST: Vanderbilt’s Earl Bennett probably would have made it to the Scouting Combine no matter who tossed him passes as a true freshman in 2005.
But having an already mature quarterback who was on the NFL fast track under center helped him blossom quickly, to the point he was able to become the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions with 236 … in just three years.
“It helped me tremendously,” said Bennett, who turned pro with one year of eligibility remaining. “Sometimes I would get on the field and I wouldn’t even know the play …”
Eh … maybe you don’t want to admit that, Earl. But, anyway, continue.
“… and Jay Cutler would help me out and put me in the right position. He was a great leader. He helped me out on the field. It was great working with a guy of such great caliber — and character, as well.”
If Bennett follows Cutler’s road into the NFL, he’ll be in good shape after two years. He’s already started mimicking his former teammate’s pro path by hiring agent Bus Cook — Cutler’s representative the last two years.
“More Cutler connection,” Bennett said, smiling.
Also worth noting, even though I can’t logically fit it into the above narrative without stewing over phrases and transitions for an hour … the 5-foot-11, 208-pound Bennett cut off the dreadlocks he’d brandished in recent years.
1:03 P.M. EST: More Cutler-Bennett:
1:11 P.M. EST: Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan’s plan for his first year? To compete and “make the decision as difficult as possible.” Optimistic, yet pragmatic. The throng for his press conference is the largest yet at the Combine, dwarfing that of potential first-rounder Sam Baker of USC, who spoke concurrently at the other podium across the room.
1:20 P.M. EST: Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed says his injured wrist is at “about 65 percent.” He tried to play at the Senior Bowl against doctor’s orders but only made it through two practices.
“The doctor advised me not to go, (saying) ‘It may hurt your draft status,’” Sweed said. “At that time, I didn’t really care. I hadn’t played football in over (three) months, so I was eager to get out there and play.
“I was doing well and it was (in) one-on-ones, and a guy came and grabbed my hand and bent it down to about 70 percent when it wasn’t ready to, so you can imagine the pain … “That as Day 1. So I came back for Day 2 and I was thinking it won’t happen again. And the same guy did it again. And that was when I decided it was time to shut it down. It wasn’t a re-injury, it was just a breaking up of the scar tissue, which actually helped me recover quicker – so I want to really thank the guy.”
1:21 P.M. EST: Ryan will run here at the Combine, but he plans to save his throwing drills for his pro day at Boston College.
“We have a bubble up over our stadium at BC,” he said. “We’ve got great conditions to throw on Pro Day. For me, I want to portray to the teams that are going to be looking at my skills in an accurate representation of what it would be like in a game situation. I want to throw to the guys I know and give the teams a chance to look at what I’m capable of doing.”
2:37 P.M. EST: Whew. We spent the last 76 minutes up and about the room, getting sound from — among others — Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall, Kentucky’s Andre Woodson, Northwest Missouri State running back Xavier Oman, San Diego quarterback Josh Johnson, Virginia Tech wide receivers Eddie Royal and Josh Morgan, Tulsa quarterback Paul Smith, Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart and Hawai’i wide receiver Jason Rivers. And I know I’m leaving out at least a few names there. Good thing I didn’t have to run off to the water closet.
4:06 P.M. MST: Running backs continue to pass through here … most recently Michigan’s Mike Hart, Rutgers’ Ray Rice, Oregon State’s Yvenson Bernard, East Carolina’s Chris Johnson, Texas’ Jamaal Charles and Arizona State’s Ryan Torain.
Charles also talked at length about his friendship with Denver’s Selvin Young.
“I look up to him like a big brother,” Charles said. “Selvin was a good person that nobody really knew because he didn’t have a good year at Texas when he was there, but I knew he was going to make it. He was a hard worker and you see what he’s doing in the NFL — he made a couple of things happen.
5:14 P.M. EST: Nebraska’s Sam Keller was the last player to address the media, and the media room will begin closing in 31 minutes, so I’m turning my attention to the notebook and photo gallery over on the main site … I’ll have one more post later tonight wrapping up the day, so for now, vaya con Dios.