|02.28.10 at 1:44 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — When Joe Haden arrived at the University of Florida in the spring of 2007, he didn’t know what position he would play.
“When I first got to Florida I had a little dream that I was going to play quarterback [but] they had somebody named Tebow,” Haden said Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “So that kind of went out the window.”
Having been recruited as a quarterback by schools including Ohio State, Virginia, Georgia, Boston College (where his brother Josh played running back), LSU, and Rutgers, Haden was fine changing positions if it meant being a Gator. The first attempt was a move to wide receiver.
“I was second-string behind Percy [Harvin],” he said. “I couldn’t get it right.”
The depth on offense was killing Haden’s chances of making an impact as a freshman, which led to a discussion with coach Urban Meyer about trying something new. Haden was all for whatever would get him on the field.
“Coach Meyer asked me if I felt like going to the defensive side of the ball,” Haden said. “I just wanted to play, because I came in spring so I had a lot of time to adjust. He just moved me to corner, something I had never done before.”
|02.28.10 at 12:50 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Take one look at Eric Berry and you know that you’re looking at perhaps the best athlete in the 2010 NFL Draft. The Tennessee defensive back can play either safety position exceptionally well, and has experience at cornerback and linebacker.
But while there won’t be many names announced before they get to Berry on April 22, it hasn’t always been easy for him. It’s family first for the 5-foot-11 1/2, 211-pound Berry, so when he made the decision to declare for the draft as a junior who was just seven yards short of the all-time record for interception return yards, he did so without looking back.
“Ever since I could remember, my mom and dad were always working,” Berry said. “My dad worked two jobs and recently had heart surgery, so I really just wanted him to be able to sit down and enjoy life for a little bit. I felt like I could do that by just coming to the draft and making their situation better.”
The decision was admirable and nobody took it the wrong way at Tennessee. In fact, then-defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin told him that he would be “a fool” to return.
James Berry worked both in insulation and as an interior/exterior painter. He deemed the residential insulation gig with Owen Corning too dangerous for his son to be around, but when young Eric wanted his first job, his father gave him a paint brush, and though James told him that he was a hard worker, it was the load off his own shoulders that was the added bonus.
“He said I was cheap labor,” Berry said with a laugh on Sunday. “I think [he paid me] somewhere around $5.50 an hour, which was pretty good in middle school, but I worked for that $5.50, man.”
Good news, Eric: teams picking in the top five pay a little better.
|02.28.10 at 11:26 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — With cornerback a need, the Patriots will have plenty of options with their first four picks in the NFL Draft. With returner also a need, the list gets narrowed down a bit.
Oklahoma State’s Perrish Cox is a guy that WEEI.com had its eye on in January for the Patriots, citing his size (6 feet, 195 pounds) and ability to be a difference-maker the New England return game has lacked since the draft day trade of Ellis Hobbs to the Eagles. Cox’ focus at the combine, however, has less to do with his game and more to do with his off-field issues.
Cox was arrested for driving with a suspended license in August and missed the Cotton Bowl last season for breaking curfew twice.
“That’s one of the things [NFL teams] harass me with,” Cox said Sunday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. “It’s kind of tough, but I’m used to it. I knew that was going to happen.”
He had 130 tackles and 10 interceptions in four years at Oklahoma State and scored on one of his 19 punt returns as a senior. But if Cox wants to hear his name called, it’s how he responds to what he calls the “harassment” from teams (including the Ravens, Niners, Packers, Rams, and Saints — he has yet to meet with the Patriots) that matters.
“I just tell them it’s my fault. Coach [Mike Gundy] did what he had to do and I got suspended for the game.”
|02.28.10 at 11:01 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — With so many former Patriots’ personnel guys and assistant coaches now running other teams, it’s easy to see how New England’s team-building approach has popped up in places like Atlanta, Denver and Kansas City.
But that’s been a double-edged sword for the Patriots. While the franchise can take a legitimate sense of pride in seeing its system disseminated throughout the league, there’s suddenly more of a demand for the kind of players New England has traditionally coveted.
It’s something that ex-Patriots execs’ and coaches talk about all the time.
“No question about it,” said Atlanta General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, who worked as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 to 2007 before taking over in Atlanta. “I was up there arguing about it with (Kansas City GM Scott) Pioli. We happen to have suites right beside each other. We’re just talking about that very same thing. Typically, you take all that you’ve learned from an organization like New England especially with as much success as we had, whether it’s on the trade side of things or acquisitions.
“We do a little busting on each other, no question about it. If we feel that the person has tried to cut around the back to try to get something. But we are usually pretty good. I maintain that this league is about having a handful allies. I think it’s very good group of us who have moved on from New England and have taken care of business in the right way.”
As a result, the Patriots have been forced to try and step up and meet that challenge — maybe becoming more creative, particularly when it comes to finding players who fit their 3-4 base defense.
“Yeah, it looks like half the league is employing some 3-4 type of configuration,” said New England’s director of player personnel Nick Caserio. “It’s becoming more challenging because there is more teams that are essentially looking at the same pool of players, so it kind of limits your opportunities, because you realize you’re really competing really with the rest of the league on that front.”
|02.28.10 at 10:58 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — When it comes to the draft, the Patriots are far from predictable. Trying to forecast Bill Belichick’s late April plans has become a practice in futility for many. The reason? The natural tendency to look at which player fits the mold. With the Patriots, however, it seems that it is more about which coach had the player.
They’ve been referred to as “Belichick guys,” whether they’ve coached with him before or not. Alabama’s Nick Saban, Fresno State’s Pat Hill, and Florida’s Urban Meyer seem to each have a pipeline that runs straight from their respective campuses to Gillette Stadium. If the prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine weren’t aware heading into the weekend, they are now. Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain has already met with the Patriots and knows the relationship.
“I was nervous because of Coach Belichick,” McClain said Saturday. “He was there. I know him and Coach Saban have a pretty good history. I was excited but yet I was nervous also. We just had a good conversation. We talked football. It’s something I like to talk and I can talk [about].”
|02.28.10 at 10:02 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — We are back for another day of action here at the NFL Scouting Combine. It’s not supposed to be a big day for the coaches (only Oakland’s Tom Cable is scheduled to address the media), but there should be a healthy amount of defensive players making the trek here to the media work room here at Lucas Oil Stadium, primarily defensive backs and safeties (as well as the linebackers and defensive linemen who didn’t talk yesterday).
A few quick hit thoughts before things really get started:
•Ndamukong Suh spoke to the media yesterday, and struck me as exceedingly well-balanced and extraordinarily mature, even when it appeared he was being baited into questions about who he thinks should go No. 1 in the draft. He handled every question with ease. This is a guy who is well-prepared for his time in the spotlight. “For me, I just like being No. 1 and striving for No. 1,” he said with a shrug. “As long as I put in the work, which I feel I have, and come here and perform and do everything that I’m asked of, that’s what I want to do. And then at that point in time, if I’m to be decided to be No. 1, I’d be happy. If I’m not, then get ready for that next team who wants me, and make the most of it.”
•Lots of Patriots talk here. From Nick Caserio’s 30-minute chat with reporters on Friday to the ex-Patriots front office guys and assistants (Thomas Dimitroff, Josh McDaniels, Eric Mangini) to players (Brandon Graham, Jordan Shipley, Dexter McCluster), there’s been a lot of good New England-specific banter. Lots of receivers comparing themselves to Wes Welker, including Shipley, who said, “That’s not a bad comparison to me. I think that guy does job as good or better than anybody in the league. It’s almost like a separate position. He’s in there inside, and nobody can cover him.” And when it comes to Graham, he’s a guy who’s already familiar with the Patriots, thanks to his friendship with Pierre Woods. “He just said it was a great experience,” Graham said of his conversations about the Patriots with Woods. “He said it was just like Michigan — you love to hate them. They have a swagger about them and they take pride in what they do, and everybody in the building works hard. So get ready if you become a Patriot.”
•Don’t think that the Patriots are going to go crazy when free agency hits, even with an uncapped year looming. Caserio made it sound like the Patriots are going to approach it in the same way that many other teams have already made clear — there’s going to be a budget, and they’re going to stick to it. “In terms of our process, we go through the same process this year as we did in years past. We have a budget in place like we do every year,” Caserio said. “It doesn’t really change for us in terms of what we do in terms of spending and player acquisition. That really hasn’t changed. As far as what the situation is moving forward, I mean, I don’t have a crystal ball, you don’t have a crystal ball. We’re operating under the terms that we have in place and that haven’t really changed all that much since I’ve been here.”
|02.27.10 at 11:51 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — Excluding the potential return of free agent Kevin Faulk, the Patriots have four bodies at running back. However, none of the four (Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis) are signed past next season. With none of them appearing to be a long-term solution even with a new contract, this could be the year that the team takes its first crack at landing a young started at the position since they swung and missed with Maroney in the first round in 2006.
The Patriots have already spoken to Ole Miss speedster Dexter McCluster, but they would plan on using him as a slot receiver. C.J. Spiller of Clemson will likely be gone in the first half of the first round and a selection of Jahvid Best, who missed his final four games at Cal with a concussion and a back injury, at No. 22 might be ill-advised considering the pass-rushers that will likely be on the board. Which brings them to the second round, where they have three picks and quite possibly could have their pick of the remaining backs in the draft.
With running backs scheduled to work out on Sunday, perhaps the one that Patriots fans should keep and eye on is Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer. With Maroney’s perceived inability to run straight ahead, the Patriots would be wise to take a long hard look at perhaps the draft’s most promising power back. It’s why they were scheduled to meed with him Saturday night and why, with a decent 40 time (he said Saturday that he plans on running between a 4.4 and a 4.5) he could be an ideal choice with the 44th overall pick.
“I’m going to be a different kind of back,” Dwyer said Saturday. “I could be the back who can make the home-run play [and] be physical. Every time I get the ball I’m going to make sure that it’s going to be positive yards. I just want to be a key factor in the offense for our team.”
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