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Colts GM not ready to make a decision on Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck

02.23.12 at 4:15 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Even if the Super Bowl and combine weren’t at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis was bound to get plenty of attention this offseason. With a decision to make on Peyton Manning and the likely addition of Andrew Luck, the Colts’ quarterback situation is the offseason’s No. 1 storyline.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, who was hired last month to replace the fired Bill Polian, has quite the decision ahead of him. Manning, who missed last season with a neck injury, is due a $28 million option bonus on March 8, and Luck is considered one of the best quarterback prospects to emerge in years.

Grigson spoke to the media Thursday at the scouting combine, but he wasn’t willing to say much on the team’s plans.

“It’s an ongoing process. It’s something that obviously is not going to be a rash thing. We’ve taken our time,” Grigson said on where the organization stands with Manning. “I know you guys would like to know more. Everyone would like to have this nailed down, but there’s a lot of variables and factors involved. There’s a great player involved that’s near and dear to the organization, and we want to just do it the right way and do what’s best for the organization and Peyton.”

The Colts have not seen Manning throw, and Grigson wouldn’t say what he needs to see out of the four-time MVP before making a decision. He did note that the sides have remained in contact, with Manning keeping in touch with owner Jim Irsay.

“We’ve been in talks with him,” Grigson said. “He’s talked with Jim quite a bit. They have a very amicable relationship, and they’ve spoken. He just needs to be healthy and we’ll hopefully, over the course of time here, have more for you but right now there’s nothing I can tell you that’s much different than before.”

Added Grigson: “I can’t comment on any medical questions or medical statuses. I’m not up here to do that. I’m here to focus on the combine. I can’t talk about Peyton’s medical status right now.”

As for Luck, the GM said the team has not decided who they will take first overall, but he did sing the Stanford quarterback’s praises.

“He’s a great player,” Grigson said of Luck. “The last guy in the last row of any stadium could tell you that he’s a heck of a quarterback, heck of a person, an intelligent kid. He’s got a lot to offer, as do a lot of other players, including other quarterbacks in this draft. This is going to be a good draft. There’s a lot of talent across the board positionally.”

Could the Colts potentially keep Manning and still draft Luck?

“He’s a great one,” the GM responded, referring to Manning. “We’d love to have Peyton or whomever in house, but there’s a lot of variables involved in this whole decision. It doesn’t make sense for me to speculate because it’s very hypothetical.”

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning

Family man Matt Kalil knows he’s the best tackle in the draft

02.23.12 at 3:18 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to the top of the draft, there isn’t much suspense this year. Andrew Luck will go first overall, and people have known that for quite some time.

This year, it’s about who’s No. 2. USC left tackle Matt Kalil could be that man, and he isn’t afraid to say he’s the best tackle in his class.

“I would definitely say I am the best tackle in the draft,” he said Thursday at the scouting combine. “Especially at my position, or the quarterback position or any big-time position, confidence is definitely a big part of your game. They want to hear that you think you’re the best tackle. I think I am. I think I’ve definitely worked hard, going through SC, going through any little thing I can to become a better player, and I definitely think I’m ready to take my skills to the next level.”

Kalil, who declared for the draft as a junior, has football in his blood. His father, Frank, played center at Arkansas and Arizona, and his brother Ryan is a center for the Panthers, chosen in the second round in 2007. For Matt, playing football as a young teenager wasn’t what it is for most kids. It wasn’t about going to park and throwing the pigskin around — it was about technique.

“To my dad, ‘Let’s play football,’ is ‘Let’s go do kick steps and let’s work O-line drills,'” he said with a laugh. “My first time going to Servite [High School], I tried to play tight end as a freshman, and my dad went on the field and he’s like, ‘No, he’s playing left tackle.’ That pretty much ended that dream.”

That wasn’t the extent of it for Kalil. Younger siblings are used to getting beaten up by their big brothers, but what about when your brother is a college-bound offensive lineman?

“When my brother was coming out of high school and he was about to go to the USC camp, me and [eventual USC teammate] Chris Galippo were 1-on-1 dummies and getting tossed around with bloody knees and elbows,” Matt said. “Basically getting beat up by my big bro.”

All of the bloody knees and elbows and weekends spent at the park working on technique ended up paying off for Matt, as he figures to be selected as high as second overall and as low as third overall. His father was right — he ended up making a great left tackle, but he grins as he remembers that first day of high school ball.

Said Kalil: “I would have been a sweet tight end.”

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, Matt Kalil,

Greg Schiano: Bill Belichick a ‘special coach’ and a ‘special person’

02.23.12 at 3:08 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Greg Schiano, the former Rutgers coach who was named head coach of the Buccaneers last month, said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine that Patriots coach Bill Belichick was a “special coach” and a “special person.”

“Bill has been an incredible person for me, not only professionally but I’ve gotten to know Bill; his son Stephen played with us at Rutgers and Bill would come to work out some of our players,” Schiano said. “Every time he visited, I learned a ton, number one. And number two, I felt very comfortable. This is a no-nonsense guy and I kind of think that’s what I am. It’s fun to be with people who ‘it is what it is’ and there are no agendas.

“As these things began to kind of show their head, I called him and asked him for some advice and he was great. I know we’re competitors, I know there are 32 teams, but I look forward to — we’re in different divisions, different conferences — hopefully continue to help each other grow. Certainly, he’ll help me a lot more than I’ll help him. But it’s been a very good relationship. I know it will change now a little bit, but he’s a special coach, as we all know. And to me, a very special person — he and his son Stephen.”

Read More: 2012 combine, Bill Belichick, Greg Schiano,

Former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano on Devin McCourty: ‘He’ll be back’

02.23.12 at 2:59 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Greg Schiano, who coached Devin McCourty while the defensive back was at Rutgers, believes that McCourty will be able to bounce back from whatever problems he had over the course of the 2011 season.

“He’ll be back. There’s no doubt about it,” Schiano said when asked about McCourty Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. “I don’t know … you’re telling me that, and I didn’t know he was having a rough patch. I know he got bumped up a little bit. He’s been fortunate that that hasn’t happened to him very much in his career.”

After making the Pro Bowl as a rookie corner with seven interceptions in 2010, McCourty appeared to struggle at times this past season. (According to Pro Football Focus, McCourty yielded 1,004 passing yards in coverage this season.) He made a part-time move to safety toward the end of the 2011 season and into the playoffs, and appeared comfortable at that spot.

“I know one thing,” Schiano added. “If he didn’t play at the level that he did the year before, it had something to do with it, because he’s as committed a football player in his preparation and the way he takes care of himself physically that I’ve been around. So he’ll be back.”

Read More: 2012 combine, Devin McCourty, Greg Schiano,

If Pats are Jonesing for offensive line help, Georgia’s Ben Jones could be their man

02.23.12 at 1:43 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — A year after taking Nate Solder 17th overall, the Patriots could stand to address the offensive line with one of their earlier picks again this season.

The the Pats could use a right guard, and the uncertainty of 32-year-old free agent Dan Koppen leaves the center position up in the air. Factor in that Koppen played in only one game last season due to a sprained ankle, and the Pats would be wise to at least snag a center.

Georgia’s Ben Jones could fit the bill for the Pats, as he has plenty of experience at both center and guard and is widely considered to be the draft’s second-best center prospect behind Wisconson’s Peter Konz.

“I can play guard,” Jones said Thursday at the scouting combine. “I played it at the Senior Bowl. I didn’t play center until I got to college. All of high school, I played guard, so I can play it any time.”

Aside from his versatility and balanced strengths in both pass protection and run-blocking, the 6-foot-2 4/8, 305-pound Jones could appeal to the Pats for his experience in the no-huddle offense, which the Patriots like to use.

“This year we went to a no-huddle offense,” Jones said. “We were a pro-style team, but we did it as a no-huddle to speed the game up and to open it up because we had a lot of weapons on the outside this year as receivers. I’m used to that, I’m used to going 80 to 90 snaps a game, so I can definitely do that.”

Jones said the no-huddle changes the way he plays his position, and that it has better prepared him for the next level.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he said. “If you’re going at a fast pace, you’ve got to know. You’ve got to read the defense while they’re shifting and everything instead of hearing the play in the huddle and all of that. It’s definitely a little change, but I did it all year and you get the hang of it really quick.”

Perhaps he was playing to the crowd here in Indianapolis, but Jones said he would like to be like longtime Colts center Jeff Saturday. Jones could likely be had with one of the Patriots’ two second-round picks.

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, Ben Jones,

New Dolphins coach Joe Philbin says it was his time at Worcester Academy that led him to a career in coaching

02.23.12 at 1:26 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — New Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin can trace his football roots back to Massachusetts ‘€” he was born in Springfield, went to Worcester Academy and really cut his teeth as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach with Northeastern from 1995-96 and then with Harvard from 1997-98.

But it was his time at Worcester Academy that really laid the groundwork for his life as a coach. Philbin spent one year there as a student and football player, on a team that had then-unknowns Kirk Ferentz, Mike Sherman and Ken O’€™Keefe on the coaching staff: Ferentz would go on to coach at Iowa and serve as the offensive line coach under Bill Belichick in Cleveland, while Sherman would become head coach at Texas A&M and Green Bay and O’€™Keefe would become offensive coordinator at Iowa.

Speaking at the annual NFL scouting combine on Thursday, as far as he was concerned, when it came to putting together a coaching staff, he jumped at the chance to add Sherman (another Massachusetts native) as Miami’€™s offensive coordinator and O’€™Keefe as wide receivers coach.

‘€œWorcester Academy was a special time,’€ said Philbin, who spent the previous three seasons as the Packers‘€™ offensive coordinator before being named head coach of the Dolphins last month. ‘€œI only spent one year there — Mike Sherman was an assistant coach on staff, Ken O’€™Keefe my receiver coach was the head coach, Kirk Ferentz, who I talked to Saturday, was an assistant coach on the staff.

‘€œI was very, very lucky,’€ he added. ‘€œMy dad always said it was the best money he ever spent. Like I said before, those guys inspired me to get into the coaching profession, I’€™m really lucky to have two of them on my staff right now.’€

Philbin’€™s parents live in Agawam, but he said that when it comes to his first trip to New England as a head coach this season, it’€™s going to be all business.

‘€œI’€™ve got great respect for what they’€™ve accomplished in New England, there’€™s no question about that — they’€™ve done a tremendous job,’€ Philbin said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine. ‘€œBut beyond, that it’€™s going to be a business trip. We’€™re going to ask our players to treat it as a business trip, so personal feelings aside, it’€™s going to have to be the same for me.

‘€œIt’€™s going to be one game out of 16-game schedule that we play in Gillette Stadium, and we’€™re going to do our best to have our team prepared as best as possible. So it’€™s not really about me, it’€™s about the Miami Dolphins.’€

It’€™s been an unbelievable stretch months for Philbin, who endured horrific tragedy in January when his son, 21-year-old Michael Philbin, was found dead in a Wisconsin river. Less than a month later, he was able to realize his professional dream of becoming an NFL head coach. He reflected on the emotional roller coaster Thursday.

‘€œIt’€™s been great seeing some familiar faces here the last couple of hours, but it’€™s been hard as well,’€ he said. ‘€œIt’€™s been the best of times and worst of times. I feel very fortunate — I have a wonderful family, a lot of tremendous friends I’€™m fortunate to have, I’€™m excited about this opportunity that Mr. Ross and Jeff Ireland have provided me, I’€™m anxious to build a program that our fans, our alumnus can be proud of, and I’€™m confident we’€™re going to do that.’€

Read More: 2012 combine, Bill Belichick, Joe Philbin, Ken O’Keefe

Pre-Combine Mock Draft: Patriots have options

02.23.12 at 9:07 am ET
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With the NFL combine set to kick off, WEEI.com will be in Indianapolis to follow the action and get a feel for which players might be headed to Foxboro.

It will be particularly interesting to see how receivers fare in workouts, as the Patriots, who have two first-round picks (Nos. 27 and 31) should be in the market for one despite not having drafted one in the first round since 1996 (Terry Glenn). Will any of the receivers in this year’s class be worth it? We should find out over the next few days.

There’s still plenty to be learned, so here’s an early mock draft to kick things off. We’ll have an updated mock following the combine, and there should be some big changes depending on how players fare in Indianapolis.

1. Indianapolis (2-14) Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

This pick is as sure as a sure thing gets, meaning that for the first time since 2009 (Matthew Stafford) there will be little suspense at the combine regarding who will be chosen first overall. The selection of Luck is a no-brainer, but the highly touted Stanford signal caller has some enormous shoes to fill.

2. St. Louis (2-14) Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

The last wide receiver to be drafted second overall was Calvin Johnson back in 2007. Is Blackmon Calvin Johnson? No, but he would immediately become Sam Bradford’s best weapon after amassing over 1,500 receiving yards and 18 touchdown catches last season. It initially seemed that Blackmon would run on Sunday, but ESPN is now reporting that he might not. Whenever he runs, if he can wow scouts with a time anywhere from the mid-4.4’s to the low 4.5’s, he’ll likely cement his status as a top-5 pick.

3. Minnesota (3-13) Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Though he declared for the draft after his junior year, Kalil has long been destined to be a top-5 pick. Consider that last year’s ninth overall pick, USC right tackle Tyron Smith, was playing right tackle because he couldn’t take the left tackle job away from Kalil. If the Rams opt to take him second overall, Minnesota would have an interesting choice between Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

4. Cleveland (4-12) Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

The Browns’ history of first-round quarterbacks is downright scary, with the likes of Bobby Garrett (traded before playing with the team, wound up playing just nine games in his career), Tim Couch (released in 2004) and Brady Quinn (Brady Quinn) among them.  Griffin’s wide-ranging skill set will bring excitement to a team that’s lacked it for years. The Browns spent a third-round pick on Colt McCoy in 2010, but Griffin is on another level.

5. Tampa Bay (5-11) Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

According to Pro Football Focus, Ronde Barber led NFL cornerbacks in missed tackles with 22. According to anyone with eyes, the Bucs were a defensive train wreck last year. Part of that had to do with injuries on the defensive line, but the secondary was woeful when healthy, and Barber is at or near the end of his playing days.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Fletcher Cox, Justin Blackmon
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