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Could Bruce Irvin’s remarkable story take him to New England?

02.25.12 at 12:20 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — At the NFL scouting combine on Saturday morning, West Virginia pass-rusher Bruce Irvin went to Podium C at Lucas Oil Stadium before a hand full of reporters and stated the obvious.

“I have a different story than a lot of these guys,” Irvin said.

Indeed he does. Unlike many of the other prospects trying to prove their worth to NFL teams, Irvin has been through two different lives. He used to be B.J. Irvin, a dangerous youth from Atlanta who dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and did jail time. He ran with the wrong crowd, had friends who were in gangs. He’s come a long way since being B.J., and when NFL teams ask him about B.J., he introduces them to Bruce.

“They’ve heard the story,” Irvin said. “They’ve read the articles, so they’re questioning me, which I don’t blame. I guess they kind of want to hear it from the horses’ mouth, the whole situation and how it happened.”

B.J. played only one year of high school football, as a wide receiver, but it wasn’t long before he was academically ineligible.

After dropping out and spending a few weeks in jail for two different charges, he got his GED and went to prep school. It was there that he met his mentor, Chad Allen. According to Irvin, Allen saved his life when his life clearly needed saving.

“He would come up there and just talk to the players and the kids and let them know, give them real-life experiences,” Irvin said. “I was homeless and he talked to me. We had a heart-to-heart and he was like, ‘I can’t let you go back to doing what you were doing.’ He opened his door to his house for me.”

Next for Irvin was junior college, and he wanted to get as far away from Atlanta as possible. He tried walking on at Butler Community College in Kansas, but he didn’t make the team. He finally landed in California, where he played at Mt. San Antonio.

It was there that he made the made the team as a safety, or so he though. He was unproductive as a defensive back, not understanding the position well enough to make an impact.

“Being that I only played one year of high school football, I was kind of slow to the game,” he said. “Picking up the coverages and all the extra stuff that it takes to be a free safety, it was just taking me a long time to grasp it and get the concept of it. One day at practice after like the sixth game — I was only playing kickoff and I was a gunner on team — after the sixth game, the coach was like, ‘Man, we’ve got to get you on the field some way.’ At practice he put me at D-end, and I just started running by people. Ever since then, I’ve just kept my hand in the dirt.”

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Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, Bruce Irvin, Mark Anderson

Rob Gronkowski brings his talents to the ice

02.25.12 at 11:35 am ET
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was a guest of the Worcester Sharks last night, where he delivered a classic Gronk spike to help open the contest. Check out the video below:

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Kelvin Beachum already has a bunch of connections to the Patriots

02.25.12 at 9:51 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Kelvin Beachum is a guy who already knows more about the Patriots than your average college prospect.

First, the offensive lineman out of SMU had Adrian Klemm as his positional coach with the Mustangs the last three years. Klemm was New England’€™s second-round pick in 2000 and spent five injury-plagued seasons with the Patriots. Second, current SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason was at Fresno State when current Pats’€™ offensive lineman Logan Mankins was there, and talked up Mankins’€™ to Beachum on a consistent basis. And third, Beachum was a college teammate of current Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore.

All this makes Beachum eminently qualified to discuss the possibility of playing in New England. He loved the opportunity to play for Klemm, who has since moved on to become the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at UCLA

‘€œIt was wonderful. He brought the intensity,’€ Beachum said of Klemm. ‘€œThe calm, cool and collected side of things that you need to have in the game, but he also talked about seven seconds of violence, which was our motto for our offensive line. Being able to establish a violent nature for seven seconds and then be able to regain your composure then go out and do it again.’€

Beachum is a 6-foot-3, 306-pound offensive lineman who played left tackle all four seasons at SMU, but figures to move to guard in the NFL. It was a move made by Mankins out of college, who became one of the best interior linemen in the league relatively quickly. While at SMU, Mason certainly gave him an idea of Mankins’€™ journey.

‘€œHe talked about [Mankins] a lot. He just talked about how massive he was, how he was just a big mauler for them when he was still in college,’€ Beachum said of Mason. ‘€œHe didn’€™t have any tape on him, but [he talked about] the type of work ethic, the type of man he was, the type of character he had both on and off the field. He just talked about the qualities he had and what made him a good player.’€

Beachum, who projects to be a late-round pick in April, can lean on his former college teammate Moore to provide him with some idea of what it takes to survive in the league as a relatively unheralded player coming out of college. Moore, who was an undrafted free agent coming out of SMU who cut by the Raiders in September, became a key member of the New England secondary over the second half of the season.

Beachum talked about some of the good times the two had as teammates.

‘€œMan, he was a funny guy. He always had some jokes to go along with whoever he was locking down in practice,’€ Beachum said of Moore. ‘€œWe used to call him 210. He was about 210 pounds and we called him a fat corner. But he dropped the weight. He’€™s done a wonderful job adapting to the NFL and is becoming a real good corner.’€

Beachum said he tried his best to remain close to Moore during this past season but wasn’€™t always easy.

‘€œWe stayed in contact,’€ Beachum said. ‘€œAny time I was able to see him play — sometimes in Texas, you don’€™t get all the New England games — any time I was able to see him play, just shoot him a text and say, ‘€˜Good game, bro.’€™ He’€™ll text me back and say, ‘€˜Appreciate it, just keeping grinding.’€™’€œ

Read More: 2012 combine, Adrian Klemm, Kelvin Beachum, Logan Mankins

Saturday at the combine: All the pass-rushers the Patriots might not draft

02.25.12 at 9:50 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Welcome back to Lucas Oil Stadium for the third day of the NFL scouting combine.

It’s a relatively light day for coaches and executives as far as media availability goes, but Chiefs chief Romeo Crennel will speak a little later on.

For players, it will be defensive linemen and linebackers meeting the media throughout the day. We’re especially interested in chatting with Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who seems to be a great fit for the Pats, as well as some pass-rushers.

Offensive linemen, special-teamers and tight ends will begin working out Saturday as well. Quarterbacks, receivers and running backs will work out Sunday, while the D-linemen and linebackers will go Monday. Defensive backs will wrap things up Tuesday.

Check the blog throughout the day, as we’ll generate content as quickly as possible.

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft,

Ryan Tannehill: From QB to receiver to QB to NFL QB

02.24.12 at 10:29 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — You don’t need to be a top quarterback out of high school in order to eventually be an NFL quarterback. In fact, you don’t even need to be a signal-caller the whole time in college to be a potential first-round pick at quarterback. Just ask Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill, who is widely considered the draft’s third-best QB and a possible top-10 pick, went to Texas A&M.

Yet after redshirting his first year, he competed for a quarterback spot and ended up third on the depth chart behind Jerrod Johnson and Stephen McGee. The team moved him to wide receiver, where he found some pretty big success.

“It was kind of a unique experience changing positions,” Tannehill said Friday. “I went to A&M as a quarterback. I redshirted as a quarterback. I went into camp my freshman year as a quarterback and was going to be third on the depth chart and they moved me out to receiver.

“I ended up having some success that day and about two days later, I was in the starting rotation at receiver. It was a quick turnaround. I was frustrated by the fact that I didn’€™t get to play quarterback. It’€™s what I always what I wanted to be. I always thought of myself as a quarterback. So I was frustrated by it, but blessed by the opportunity to be able to play another position.”

Tannehill finally got back to playing quarterback full-time as a junior, and he considers his experience at receiver as an advantage.

“Not a lot of people get to contribute in another way to help their team,” he said. “It was exciting for me to be able to do that. I learned a lot about the game, got a lot of experience. Even though it wasn’€™t at the quarterback position, I did get experience playing football and seeing the game out there. I learned a lot from it, and fortunately I was able to get back to where I wanted to be under center.”

Now, after throwing for 3,744 and 29 touchdowns as a senior, Tannehill, who is rehabbing a foot injury, is considered the draft’s third-best quarterback, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. These days, being the third-best quarterback isn’t such a bad thing. Just look at last year. Missouri product Blaine Gabbert was the third QB taken, and he went 10th overall. The fourth quarterback went two picks later when the Vikings drafted Florida State’s Christian Ponder.

“I wouldn’€™t say I’€™ve paid a whole lot of attention to it,” Tannehill said of the trend of more QB’s being drafted early. “I’€™ve just tried to do everything I can personally to be the best quarterback I can be, whether it’€™s doing extra work for my rehab, extra work in the film room, on the board, extra work out on the field with my drops and footwork. Whatever it may be, I just want to do whatever I can to be the best quarterback.”

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, Ryan Tannehill,

Andrew Luck isn’t house-hunting in Indianapolis just yet

02.24.12 at 4:17 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — While Robert Griffin III got a question about his unique sock collection right out of the gate — Ninja Turtles, for those of you keeping track at home — Andrew Luck got a real estate question. The Stanford quarterback, who many believe is the heir apparent in Indianapolis to Peyton Manning, was asked if he was doing any house hunting while he was in Indianapolis this week.

‘€œIt’€™s a little premature for that, I think,’€ Luck said with a smile.

The sight of Luck standing in The House That Peyton Manning Built and being asked about the possibility of replacing him in the Indianapolis lineup is surreal. But that’€™s what the Stanford product did for his session with the media that ran for 10-plus minutes at the NFL scouting combine on Friday afternoon. Luck talked about his game, the quarterbacks he admires now (a group that includes Patriots signal-caller Tom Brady) and his decision not to throw this week in Indianapolis.

But mostly, it was about Peyton.

‘€œI’€™m not too caught up in that right now. I understand that it is a possibility,’€ Luck said when asked about possibly taking over for Manning. ‘€œPeyton was my hero growing up. He was my football hero. It’€™s who I modeled myself after in high school, in middle school, whenever it was. You never truly replace a guy like that, and who knows what happens? So many different things could happen, but I’€™m not thinking about it too much right now.

‘€œI understand the questions have to be asked. It’€™s part of it. I understand its speculation,’€ Luck added. ‘€œIn my mind, too, nothing’€™s happened yet. I haven’€™t been drafted by any team and obviously with Peyton, that’€™s still going on with the Colts. It’€™s not uncomfortable. I understand the questions have to be asked.’€
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Read More: 2012 combine, aaron rodgers, Andrew Luck, Clyde Christensen

Alshon Jeffery isn’t fat, but is he slow?

02.24.12 at 3:41 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — If you google the name “Alshon Jeffery,” the next word that comes up on auto-complete is “fat.”

That’s not good for Jeffery, a receiver out of South Carolina who hopes to go in the first round of this year’s draft and could potentially be a perfect fit for the Patriots at either No. 27 or 31.

Jeffery’s hands and separation skills at the college level have made him a big name, but rumors about his weight (like that he had ballooned to upwards of 240 pounds) have made many wonder if he’s the next Mike Williams. Big and slow isn’t exactly a recipe for success, but Jeffery looked good Friday when he weighed in an met with the media.

“I think it was either [6-foot-2 4/8] or 6-foot-3 and 216 [pounds],” he said.

The height is well under what he was listed at in college [6-foot-4], but the 216 pound weigh-in went a long way in addressing questions about his weight. Jeffery said he weighed “like 230″ pounds last year at South Carolina, and noted that was the heaviest weight at which he’s played.

“I think that was too heavy for me,” he said. “When I get to the NFL, I have to make a better transition. I think 215, somewhere around there is better for me.”

Now that he’s proven that he isn’t fat, Jeffery has to show he isn’t slow. A good 40-yard dash should cement his first-round status. A bad one could doom him. He said he’s practiced running the 40, but hasn’t looked at his time. Jeffery hopes he can run in the 4.5 or 4.4 range.

There’s no denying that Jeffery’s 40 will be one of the most anticipated of the pre-draft process, though he still isn’t sure whether he’ll run in Indianapolis Friday or whether he’ll wait for his Pro Day. One thing he does know is that he isn’t putting as much focus on his time as the rest of the football world.

“I don’t think there’s no pressure,” he said. “I’ve just got to go out there and relax and take my time. It’s going to be what it’s going to be regardless, so that’s what I think about it.”

Jeffery’s happy to have lost the weight, as he said the whole pre-draft process has taught him better eating habits. His favorite food is lasagna, but these days, he just drinks a lot of water. The whole time that people have been wondering whether he’d have a stock-killing weigh-in, he was exercising and eating right. Is he mad that people had the wrong idea of him?

“I don’t really pay attention to any of that,” Jeffery said. “Anybody can write anything on the internet, so that’s how I think about that.”

If the Patriots do land Jeffery, it wouldn’t be the first time they spent a high pick on a highly skilled player with weight issues. It may be an apples an oranges comparison, but a player fell in the 2004 draft because of concerns over his weight, and the Pats ended his slide. His name? Vince Wilfork.

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, alshon jeffery,
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