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Friday at the combine: Tebow mania, Andrew Luck, and the receivers the Patriots could draft

02.24.12 at 10:21 am ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — We’re back at Lucas Oil Stadium for the second day of the NFL scouting combine.

Speaking first among the executives is Denver’s John Elway. Expect a little Tebow mania at 10:30.

The quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers will weigh in and meet with the media Friday. That means Andrew Luck will take the podium later on. As far as the Patriots’ needs are concerned, we’ll get to know the wide receiever prospects better. The interest here is in how South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery weighed in. His weight and timed speed could scare teams away if they aren’t up to snuff, and he’s trying to shake the tag as the next Mike Williams.

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft,

Wisconsin linemen could fit in New England

02.23.12 at 9:31 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Wisconsin is used to sending quality offensive linemen to the NFL. Last year, Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi declared himself the best tackle in the draft and went 29th overall to the Bears. This year, two of the best interior linemen in center Peter Konz and guard Kevin Zeitler.

Konz figures to be a first-round pick, while Zeitler could go in the second round. Zeitler met with the media Thursday at the scouting combine and said that he isn’t trying to go higher than Konz, his best friend on the team. Instead, the two have a mutual goal.

Said Zeitler: “Our goal is, ‘Hey, if we can beat Gabe from last year, that would be pretty cool.”

Zeitler, who says he measured in at “just under” 6-foot-4 and 314 pounds, could be a potential fit for the Pats, who could use a right guard. If they were so inclined to spend a first-rounder on a center, Konz could potentially replace free agent Dan Koppen. Konz got a ringing endorsement from Zeitler on Thursday.

“I think he’s the best center in the draft,” Zeitler said. “I don’t think there’s anyone who can really compete with him.”

If the Pats can’t get their hands on Konz or Georgia’s Ben Jones, Zeitler could also play center.

“I’ve been working at center,” he said. “Once Pro Day comes along, I’m hoping to show it off. I learned how to make calls the right way. I definitely want to show I can do that.”

Regardless of where he ends up or what position he ends up playing, Zeitler hopes to be the next Wisconsin offensive lineman to make a name for himself at the next level.

“There’s been a great tradition of offensive line there,” he said of Wisconsin. “We respect it. Nobody wants to be the guy that stops it. As a group, we try to work hard. It works.”

Read More: 2012 combine, 2012 NFL Draft, Kevin Zeitler, Peter Konz

Some of the highlights from Nick Caserio’s Q&A Thursday afternoon at the scouting combine

02.23.12 at 6:12 pm ET
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INDIANAPOLIS — Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio just wrapped up a 15-minute session with New England reporters here at the NFL scouting combine. We’€™ll have more from the Q&A shortly, but here are a few quick highlights:

His initial thoughts on the 2011 draft class: ‘€œAs usual, I’€™d say the underclassmen are a big part of it. This is the most amount of underclassmen I think that asked for an evaluation from the league. The final numbers are fairly high. There’€™s depth at more positions relative to others. I’€™d say receiver is a position of strength. The offensive line’€™s a position of strength. The front seven is a position of strength. A lot of the players, front seven especially that were down at the Senior Bowl, are some of the better players in this draft. I think it’€™s a good draft. Like every year, each position has a little more depth or balance relative to others. That’€™s kind of where it is right now as we sit here at the combine.’€

On whether New England’€™s front seven is a 4-3 or a 3-4: ‘€œWe’€™ve been a multiple team here for a long time. So, front seven, you know, you’€™re basically going to [look at] off the line of scrimmage linebackers, on the line of scrimmage linebackers, whether it’€™s end of the line of scrimmage defensive line, whether it’€™s the defensive end or a rush player, and then interior defensive linemen, depending how the front is dispersed. That’€™s why you look at the front seven in general terms because you could really shift back and forth depending on whether it was the team or opponent we were playing. At the end of the year, we were playing a little more odd fronts. We played, I think, 65, 70 percent of the snaps were sub defense. We’€™re a multiple team, so, you look at those front seven players in general terms and then you get them into your program and figure out where their skill set is best going to be utilized.’€

On how the uncertainty of possible free agents like Mark Anderson and Andre Carter might dictate how you approach the draft: ‘€œWe got really good production from those two players. Those guys did a nice job. I think the most important thing for us is to improve our team. And this whole spring process is about team building. Whether that’€™s in the draft, in free agency, however that takes shape, that’€™s what we’€™ll try to do and that’€™s how we’€™ll address it.’€

We’€™re the Patriots setback on scouting process because they played so deep into the postseason: ‘€œI’€™d say yes and no. Our scouting staff — specifically, the college scouting staff — the college scouts, the area scouts, regional scout Jon Robinson, has spent a significant amount of time on the road this fall. Since August basically, through November and December, whenever the college season ends. And then our staff was at all the college all-star games, so I would say where we are in terms of the timetable, we’€™re probably about at the same spot. Just as far as maybe as coaches getting involved in the evaluations and some of that process, maybe we’€™re a little bit further behind because of the efforts were geared in another direction. Our scouts have done an outstanding job as far as the preparation goes and the information we have to this point. I think we’€™re still gathering information. Part of the reason that we’€™re all here is because we’€™re gathering information. The interviews and the time you spend with the players is probably more important than — and I don’€™t want to take away what they do on the field — but what a guy does in shorts in the end isn’€™t going to be the ultimate determining factor. It’€™s going to be about his performance and then, some of his other dynamics that come into play as well. The makeup and some of the traits that we look for in our players. I think that our staff has done a great job specifically looking for where we are today.’€

On the possibility of Chad Ochocinco coming back: ‘€œHe’€™s under contract. So, if he’€™s under contract, he’€™ll be here.’€
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Read More: 2012 combine, Andre Carter, Chad Ochocinco, Jon Robinson

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,
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