Good morning from Lucas Oil Stadium. The first day of the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine is set to get underway, and DenverBroncos.com is in town to cover the league’s annual job fair.
Throughout the event, we will post daily blogs from the media room here at the stadium. In addition, we will post audio and video of some of the top players’ interviews, provide photos and finish off each day with a top story recapping the biggest events.
Today, offensive linemen, kickers, punters, long snappers and tight ends will address the media. In addition, Head Coach John Fox will step to the podium at approximately 10:30 a.m. here in Indy, which of course means 8:30 a.m. Denver time.
Feel free to post any questions you have in the comments — or via my Twitter account or the official Broncos account — and we will do our best to answer them. Keep checking back throughout the day for updates.
While we wait for the first group of interviewees, you can take a closer look at how the personnel staff approached the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine. The story was featured in last summer’s Broncos Magazine, and it seems especially relevant again this time of year. We’ll look to provide similar insight from this year’s event.
10:02 a.m. EST First up at the podium was Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz. The Lions hold the 23rd pick in the first round — two slots ahead of the Broncos.
“I think our focus will be the same it’s always been,” Schwartz said. “We’ll evaluate every single player. You never know what is going to happen in the draft ahead of you.”
11:44 a.m. EST: Coach Fox has met with the media at the podium and held another session with the local Denver media afterward. We’ll have much more on what the coach said in this afternoon’s top story, but here are a few tidbits. You can watch the full video of his press conference here.
“If we’d made the Super Bowl, he probably could have played,” Fox said.
“As we embark here in our offseason, there are two separate pools of players (draft-eligible players and free agents) and I can’t comment on either side too much,” he said. “We’re going to be doing everything we can to get better. We will have a lot of areas [to address]. I don’t want to get into exact needs because it’s a competitive thing, but having a stable of running backs is important. If you just look at our track record—my track record—I believe in that and we’re going to try to continue to build that.”
“At the end of the day, we’re very comfortable with Tim. He did turn us from a 4-12 team to a playoff team. … Typically we go to camp with four quarterbacks. If you do the math, we have two, so that means we need two more. That can come from a lot of varieties of areas. All we’re trying to do is find the best human talent we can that we think fits what we believe to be a championship football team with the Denver Broncos.”
12:23 p.m. EST: There’s been a big rush on players lately, so we’ll have a lot of updates coming. The first player to come into the room was Georgia punter Drew Butler.
With the combine turning in to such a spectacle, Butler is trying to keep the event in perspective.
“I’m not really looking at this week as a make-or-break opportunity,” Butler said. “Fortunately for myself, I’ve built a pretty good foundation. I’m looking for what I can show this week to kind of put the cherry on top of a good career and move forward. Just to show that consistency and coachability and how I can perform and get that ball to do what I want on every single punt. I think that’s something I’ve done my past three years in college and I’m here to show coaches that I have what it takes.”
12:27 p.m. EST: Troy offensive tackle James Brown spoke quietly from the podium during his media session, often giving short answers. How would he describe himself as a player? “I’m a competitor. I like to win.”
But when he was asked what football meant to him, he said it saved him from making a big mistake.
“When I was coming up in high school, I got to a point where I really lost my care for school,” Brown said. “I didn’t want to come to school anymore. I was getting to the point where I was getting ready to drop out, and my coaches came and talked to me about it. They talked about having a future and playing football. Then I started getting recruitment letters, and ever since then everything’s been on the up-and-up.”
12:47 p.m. EST: Next up was Lou Groza Award winner Randy Bullock from Von Miller’s alma mater, Texas A&M.
“It meant a whole lot,” he said of the honor. “That’s a very prestigious award that only one person can get each year. My name is now with some of the best that have ever kicked.”
Even though he won the award given to college football’s top kicker, he knows that a job in the NFL will still be hard to come by.
“It is different – that’s just one of the things with the kicking position,” Bullock said. “Nothing is guaranteed. Some of the guys you’re competing against can be 15 years older than you.”
12:56 p.m. EST: Georgia Kicker Blair Walsh talked about the drills that the kickers will run through during combine testing.
“We’re going to hit kickoffs in both corners and down the middle,” he said. “It should be a good day to get tested.”
While there is a lot of pressure on the players to perform well in combine testing, Walsh said that he tries to have fun with the whole experience.
“I don’t think you can have that pressure when you kick field goals,” the place kicker said. “I think you have to go out there and have fun and enjoy what you do. You have to be confident in your abilities because your abilities are what got you here to this point and they’re going to get you through it.”
1:04 p.m. EST: Throughout the combine, teams interview dozens of players — and Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs knows it could get a little repetitive for the scouts and coaches. So he took some time with the press to talk about his approach to interviews with teams during the combine process.
“The (scouts and coaches) come up to a table and they’ve been asking the kickers and punters the same questions all day,” he said. “So, I go in there with a couple jokes or some sarcasm to get them chuckling a little bit.”
1:40 p.m. EST: Baylor center Philip Blake talked about where his passion from football came from, having grown up in Canada.
“My mom came home one weekend from Buffalo and she bought Madden ’98 and ever since I put it in the computer and started playing, I’ve loved the game,” he said.
The offensive lineman started out his athletic career playing street hockey, not football.
“I wasn’t this big at the time, I gained all my weight in high school,” he said. ” My cousin played hockey and I used to have to carry his bags all around. Most of the time I played goalie or defense.”
1:53 p.m. EST: The first quarterback to make an appearance was Miami’s Jacory Harris, who was announced as a “throwing quarterback.” It’s a designation that doesn’t bother the draft hopeful.
“From what I understand, (Houston Texans quarterback) T.J. Yates was a throwing quarterback last year, and he got drafted,” Harris said. “Here as a throwing quarterback you just come in a day early and you leave later than others. You have the opportunity to showcase your skills more than the other quarterbacks. You have the opportunity to throw to the running backs, linebackers, DBs — every position. And I’m excited about that opportunity.”
2:07 p.m. EST: Offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, who played with Broncos offensive lineman Zane Beadles at Utah, grew up watching the combine and now he is in Indianapolis as a participant.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’m one of those guys who’s been watching the combine ever since it’s been on the NFL Network,” he said. “To actually be in it is pretty exciting.”
Like Beadles, Bergstrom is a versatile lineman who has spent time at different offensive line positions during his career.
“I was mostly right tackle,” he said. “I played left as a freshman but switched to right and stayed there after that. I’m happy to move anywhere. I played only left guard in the senior bowl and felt like I did alright there. I played a little left tackle my freshman year. I played center in high school. I’ve heard all of it. I’ve heard guys say you’ll probably move to guard. Whatever. Whatever it takes to win. I want to win.”
2:27 p.m. EST: Shawn Powell, a punter from Florida State, talked about the process that the combine participants go through.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase your talent in front of the front office. We’re all here looking for jobs, fighting for jobs. … It’s a great experience and I’m very blessed and honored to have the opportunity to be here.”
As with all the special teams players, Powell knows that he faces stiff competition for the few NFL punting jobs that come available.
“Our position is always limited, no matter what you do,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast that you get into. Being able to be recognized as one of the best just makes it that much better.”
2:47 p.m. EST: One of the top offensive tackles in the draft, Ohio State’s Mike Adams, took his turn with the media.
He believes his biggest strength is his athleticism and ability to block in space.
“I like to play through the whistle in the run game,” Adams said.
Since our own Stuart Zaas went to Michigan, I figured I’d throw him a bone and include Adams’ quote about losing to the Wolverines as a senior.
“Losing to Michigan as an Ohio State guy is something nobody ever wants to go through, but I got three pairs of gold pants from beating them, so I’m alright, I guess.”
Adams said he’s been good friends with fellow top O-line prospect Michael Brewster since they met at an Ohio State camp when they were 14.
“Having him here at the combine with me and also down at the Senior Bowl together, it’s always good,” Adams said. “Just to have someone who you know, who you’re comfortable with, going through the same things you’re going through, just to be able to relate to it is awesome.”
3:01 p.m. EST: The O-linemen keep rolling in, as Georgia center Ben Jones was up next.
He said the main area that needs improvement is his ability to get to the second level of the defense and block linebackers.
Jones said that at Georgia, he practiced against the Bulldogs’ 3-4 defense, meaning he took on “360-pounders every day,” and faced 290-pound defensive ends at other times against tough SEC defenses.
He compares himself to Jeff Saturday.
“He’s a little under 6-2, very intelligent, can get the job done and he’s played for a while now,” Jones said. “I think I can come in and play hopefully for a long time.”
3:06 p.m. EST: Mississippi State offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry has a leg up on some of the other combine participants this year — he got the rundown of what to expect from a former Bulldog first-round pick in Derek Sherrod.
“When you have guys come back to your university that went through the whole process, it’s special,” Saulsberry said. “You just take what you can from those guys.”
The best bit of advice he got?
“Just be on time wherever I go,” he smiled.
Saulsberry was very polite with reporters, so one asked him if he can get mean enough to be successful on the line in the NFL.
“I can be very mean,” Saulsberry said. “I don’t want to say how mean, but I can get real mean.”
Why can’t you say how mean? A reporter with a camera asked.
“Because we’re on TV,” Saulsberry laughed.
“Defensive linemen, offensive linemen, you have to have that mean streak in you,” Saulsberry said. “Because it’s war in the trenches, always. The phrase that we hear all the time, third-and-1, fourth-and-1, who is going to step up and make the play? Who’s going to be that person that makes a block? Who’s not going to be the guy that gives up that play?”
3:16 p.m. EST: Punter Bryan Anger talked about his focus for the week – hang time on his punts.
“Gross, I don’t focus on so much,” he said. “With hitting big kicks, good hang and distance comes. I really focus on hang time and then the net will follow with that. If you get good hang, you limit returns. As long as you can hit the ball a decent distance with that hang, you’re good.”
Anger participated in the East-West Shrine Game this year and said that the experience from that helped prepare him for this week.
“I felt good,” he said of that experience. “I had a good week overall. It was nice to get out there and NFL-style punt with NFL balls. It was awesome to work with all that personnel. I had a really good time.”
3:20 p.m. EST: Josh Harris has the distinction of being the only long snapper invited to the combine this year.
As the only player at his position here, he will snap for all the punters and kickers tomorrow – that means a lot of work for the snapper, who walked on at Auburn.
“It’s pretty cool,” Harris said. “I never thought I’d really get the opportunity to be here, then to get the invite to be here and perform in front of every NFL team – that’s an incredible opportunity.”
As a walk-on, Harris was a member of the 2011 NCAA National Champion team, making him the second member of his family to hoist the trophy wearing the Tigers’ jersey.
“My grandfather played on the 1957 National Championship team with Auburn,” Harris explained. “To be able to share that with him – he’s passed away since – but to have that mentally between me and him, to keep something like that in the family is really cool. I don’t think many other people can say that they have two Auburn championships within the family.”
3:31 p.m. EST: Offensive lineman Ryan Miller, who attended the University of Colorado, took as much advice from former Buffs (and current Patriots) lineman Nate Solder as he could get leading up to the Combine.
“Nate has been a great asset to have in this,” Miller said. “He has been giving out advice, kind of the dos and don’ts, ‘Maybe you should try this, this might work for you, this didn’t work for me,’ kind of things. It’s been very valuable.”
Miller said that he followed Solder’s rookie season with New England this year.
“Yeah, it was good to watch him. I got to see him play in Denver. It’s amazing to see that Nate has gotten bigger,” he laughed.
3:31 p.m. EST: Brandon Mosley is the second Auburn player that we talked to today. After a day of medical evaluations and interviews, he’s ready to get going with the on-field drills.
“It’s awesome,” Mosley said of the experience so far. “It’s everything I expected. I haven’t been doing a lot yet, just the physical and examination stuff. It’s been kind of long and not much sleep. It’s going pretty good and it’ll get better in a few days when we start working out with the bench press and drills. It’ll be fun.”
As with every other player here in Indianapolis, Mosley is hoping that a team takes notice of his showing at the Combine.
“I guess everybody’s hope is to get drafted and picked up,” he said. “It’d be a dream to play for anybody. Since I was a little kid growing up, I’ve wanted to play in the NFL. I’m real excited.”
4:11 p.m. EST: Offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who is expected to be a top-10 pick in April, checked in at 6’6″, 306 pounds during official measurements today. He said that during the season his playing weight was around 300 pounds, but that he’s been working hard to add bulk before he hits the NFL.
“I’ve gained about six pounds (since the season), but in good weight,” Kalil said. “It’s the heaviest I’ve been, but I feel good playing at that weight. I can still move well. I’m going to do everything at the combine and I’m definitely excited about that.”
Scouts and coaches advised the University of Southern California lineman to add weight, given his body type.
“I’m tall and slender, I can weight 310 and still look like it’s light. I definitely have room to add more weight and I’m looking to do that training these next two months. Get bigger, get stronger working on my body.”
As one of the highest-touted offensive tackles in this year’s draft class, Kalil is hoping to become one of the first players taken off the board.
“I’ve always thrived on keeping my speed and athleticism rather than being overly big or heavy,” he said when asked about his strengths. “I’m always finding something to work on with my technique to become a better player.”
4:23 p.m. EST: Mitchell Schwartz, an offensive lineman from Cal, talked about training for the Combine.
“I was already at a pretty good weight where I wanted to be, but obviously you train for specific events,” he said. “You don’t do a shuttle in a game. You don’t do a 3-cone drill. So you’re training for specific events you’re going to do.”
Schwartz said that it’s important to keep training for football games while also sharpening drill-specific skill sets.
“We still did a bunch of skill work, working with an offensive line coach, a few times a week, just staying sharp with offensive line stuff in general,” he explained. “You don’t want to let your fundamentals go to waste. It’s more of a focus on specific drills more so than your normal get ready for the season get ready for football type of thing.”
5:17 p.m. EST: Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin isn’t shy about where he ranks himself among draft prospects at his position.
While many consider Kalil to be the top tackle available, Martin begs to differ, saying he is “without a doubt” better than Kalil.
“As a competitor, you’ve got to think you’re the best,” Martin said. “Matt’s a tremendous player, but I think I’m better than he is.”
“I just believe in myself as a player,” he explained. “There’s nothing cocky about it, that’s just how I approach my game to prepare for an event like this.”
5:23 p.m. EST: Another top O-line prospect, Riley Reiff, has an interesting story — he was a three-time state champion in wrestling.
He finished his career with only one loss, which came early in his career.
“I just got beat,” Reiff said. “It was my freshman year. Lost to a kid, one of my good friends, actually.”
Then you took it out on everybody else?
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Tried to.”
Reiff said wrestling helped him as he transitioned to football because you use the same physical tools — hands, hips and feet — in addition to the mental toughness it provided.
The offensive tackle grew up in South Dakota, where he said there are a lot of Broncos and Vikings fans, but Reiff chose the Raiders for what some might describe as an odd reason.
“The mailman was a Raiders fan and he always talked to me,” he explained.
5:31 p.m. EST: We’ll finish out the first day’s blog with one of the more entertaining stories of the afternoon.
Tight end prospect Orson Charles was going through a typical press conference, giving some pretty good quotes.
“Blocking is mainly want-to,” Charles said. You’ve got to want to do it, and then technique. I feel like if you have good technique and the will to do it, you can block anybody.”
He also gave some insight into what it’s like for players preparing to interview with teams. He has a few set up for this evening.
“I’m not really sure which teams, I just have the room numbers and the times to show up.”
Then, he was asked about an incident on a recruiting trip to Florida.
“It was an accident,” he began. “I was on a recruiting visit to Florida. They were practicing and they had the Heisman trophy out and the (national championship) crystal ball out. That was my first time seeing it — it was my first visit, period. So I took a picture of the crystal ball. They had a little gap, then they had the Heisman trophy to the left.
“When I squatted down to take a picture of Tim Tebow’s name, I bumped (the crystal ball) onto the table, and it hit the floor and just shattered. I was definitely wanting to get away.”
So what did he do?
“I just froze,” he said. “I just stood there. I couldn’t believe it. Just five minutes ago we were saying, ‘That can’t be the real one, they wouldn’t have it out here.’ Then when it hit the floor and shattered, we just stood there.”
Needless to say, Charles ended up at Georgia.
5:39 p.m. EST: Player availability is over for the day, but here are a couple quick quotes from Utah offensive line prospect Tony Bergstrom about Zane Beadles we gathered earlier in the afternoon.
“I talked to him a little bit after he was drafted and I talk to him when he comes through Utah,” Bergstrom said of Beadles. “He’s doing a great job. He’s killing it out there (in Denver).”
“As a young player, he was who I modeled my game after,” he continued. “I came in and he was kind of the big guy on campus. I was really trying to live up to his name and trying to be like Zane.”
That’ll do it for the Day One blog. Thanks for sticking with us, and we’ll have plenty more tomorrow when Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway meets the media at 10:30 a.m. EST, followed by appearances by quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
-Gray Caldwell and Stuart Zaas
Tags: NFL Scouting Combine