NFL Combine: Follow all the action
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Chiefs refuse to admit interest in Manning
Scott Pioli refused to say Friday whether the Chiefs have interest in Peyton Manning, though the general manager said discussions have taken place with free agent quarterback Kyle Orton to provide competition for Matt Cassel.
Orton was acquired by the Chiefs off waivers from the Denver Broncos after Cassel hurt his throwing hand last season. Cassel wound up on injured reserve, and Orton played well the final three weeks of the season, knocking off the Packers along with his former team.
”We’ve talked with Kyle’s people. We’ve talked with Kyle,” Pioli said Friday at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, where he was busy evaluating draft prospects.
”It sounds like Kyle would like to be with us. We told Kyle that we’d like to continue to work with him,” Pioli said. ”Now it’s just a matter of seeing if things arrive at the right place. It’s not always about whether we want a player or the players want to be here.”
Richardson doesn’t like shirkers
Alabama running back Trent Richardson won’t run the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He also won’t even term the recent surgery as a "minor setback."
"It irks me that players don’t take advantage of the workouts at the combine," said Richardson who wasn’t wearing a visible brace. It’s also unlikely that Richardson will be ready to run at his pro day, which is scheduled for March 27.
"You have to have a mental toughness to even play at Alabama," he said. "(I) played for a guy named Saban."
Richardson was challenged by reporters on why the running back position isn’t as valuable as it once was. "Whoever drafts me is going to have someone with a quality effort that I bring to the game. I want to be the running back that is on the field on third-and-3 and fourth-and-1," he said.
Alabama’s strength and conditioning coach wouldn’t allow Richardson to bench press over 475 pounds. Now that he isn’t under the school’s supervision, Richardson hopes to "break the running back record" if he participates in the bench press.
"I’m not sure," replied Richardson, when asked if he would participate in the strength test.
— Ross Jones
Carroll opens up
Pete Carroll’s deep connection to USC football made the current Seahawks and former Trojans head coach a popular interview subject at the combine on Thursday.
He had plenty to say about the progress of his former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez; former Trojans offensive tackle Matt Kalil, the potential of quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as well as the prospect of keeping free agent running back Marshawn Lynch in a Seahawks uniform (Lynch is likely to get a franchise tag March 5).
Here we go, in order:
— On keeping up with Sanchez’s progress with the New York Jets: "I’m ecstatic about what he overcame in his first year (2009), when they started so fast — I think he won his first three games — and then (the Jets) went out and lost three or four games. I thought (the Jets’) staff did an awesome job of staying with him and letting him feel their confidence and their backing … he came back out of it and they went on to so some damage in the playoffs.
"Mark’s had a great start to his career. He’s an extraordinary quarterback and kid; there is nothing to hold him back from being a really big-time player. It’s just … difficult. It’s a great challenge at that position. He’s growing. He’s learning. He’s just going to get better. He can do all of the things that anybody is asking a quarterback to do.
"We’ve stayed connected … I’ve been a great fan of his and I’m watching him closely. He’s such a young guy playing right now. He’s just getting started so he has a lot of years ahead of him."
— On Kalil’s NFL prospects: "He’s big time. He’s physically equipped. He’s got toughness about him, which he’s had since he was a freshman in high school; as he was growing up you could see him coming along — I watched him for years and years as he progressed to come to USC.
"He’s just equipped with all of the elements you need — he has great length to him; he’s tough; he’s smart. He understands the game. He has good feel. He has good feel — his dad played … the fact that he’s here and the fact that he just worked out great on the bench press (30 reps at 225 pounds) … he’s going to be a terrific player. There’s nothing to keep him from playing (in the NFL) right away."
— On why he never recruited Luck or Griffin while at USC: "I didn’t recruit (Luck), only because the way things were going (with the Cardinal). But we did not know about RG3. He was not penciled in as a quarterback at the time. He obviously, as I look back, I wish we would have."
— His assessment of Luck and RG3 as future NFL players: "They’re very different but extremely effective in entirely different systems. But they’re both great prospects and they show the potential that you’re looking for.
"Andrew is a little more classic in the system that he’s been involved with, and you see Griffin doing so many things so well, particularly throwing the ball down the field, the deep balls connecting with tremendous accuracy, as well as all the wonderful athleticism. They are great prospects."
— On keeping Lynch, whose contract status has been handled by general manager John Schneider since mid-December: "It’s a process. John has worked very diligently at it with Marshawn’s representation and it’s ongoing. But it’s a long ways down the road. We have big plans for him being with us. He knows that. He understands that. And we’re just working it out."
— Nancy Gay
Griffin dynamic at podium
With Andrew Luck all but set to go to the Indianapolis Colts with the No. 1 overall pick, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is poised to be the most sought-after player in the 2012 NFL Draft.
The demand has begun: RG3 already interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night and is scheduled to meet with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs on Friday evening. The Redskins are due to talk with Griffin on Saturday.
Appearing poised, confident and alternately brilliant and humorous on the pressure-packed (and reporter-packed) stage at the combine media center, Griffin said he wants NFL teams to know there was nothing simple about the spread offense he ran at Baylor, and that he will wait until his March 21 pro day in Waco, Texas to showcase his passing ability to prospective NFL employers.
Griffin repeated he’s not willing to concede the No. 1 overall selection to Luck, a player whom he admires, because "we’re all very competitive."
And he had this interesting comment when asked about the possibility of playing Peyton Manning’s backup: "I’d hold that clipboard with pride," Griffin said.
— Nancy Gay
Luck is on board
Andrew Luck agreed with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III’s statement that he would "hold the clipboard with pride" under Peyton Manning if he was drafted by the Colts.
"Absolutely, I would, (Peyton) is a hero of mine," the well-mannered Luck said in front of a crowd of media. "He’s arguably the best quarterback of all time."
Both quarterbacks decided to forgo the opportunity to throw at the combine this week. Griffin III moved up his pro day up a day to March 21 so the posse of scouts could attend both Baylor’s and Stanford’s, scheduled for March 22.
— Ross Jones
Kendall Wright may be small in size for his position (5-9, 190 pounds), but he says he has "plenty of attributes" that make him stand out.
"I’ve been compared to DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith and Mike Wallace, but I just want to be Kendall," he said.
Wright, who had a breakout senior season with 108 receptions, 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns, has seen his draft stock rise since the end of the season.
"I want to do whatever I can to get on the field and play," Wright said.
As a potential first-round pick, Wright was consistently bombarded with RG3 questions, but he handled it like a pro.
"(Griffin III) won’t have any problem adjusting from the spread to under center," he said.
— Ross Jones
Gabbert has work to do
Like Tim Tebow, Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert isn’t waiting until the NFL’s official offseason workouts to begin before preparing for the 2012 campaign.
With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement barring teams from conducting on-field practices with their players until May 1, first-year Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey said Gabbert will soon start working on his own with a private quarterbacks coach. Tebow is doing the same with UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone in Los Angeles.
During a Friday morning interview with myself and Solomon Wilcots on Sirius XM NFL Radio, Mularkey admits new rules limiting off-field contact between coaches and players are "kind of frustrating." For example, Mularkey said he was forced to scrap lunch plans with Gabbert after the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis even though the focus of the conversations wouldn’t be on Xs and Os.
"Everybody is going through this. It’s a unique offseason," Mularkey said. "We can’t have players working out on our fields and we can’t instruct them in the weight room other than safety issues (until May 1). We’ve all got to get used to this the first time around."
Broncos executive vice president John Elway believes private quarterback coaches will become a new cottage industry in light of the CBA changes forcing teams to reduce the scope of offseason workouts.
"These guys are going to want to work in the offseason, especially the young guys when it comes to the technical side," Elway said. "That’s the stuff you need a lot of work at. You can only do so much film study."
Gabbert needs the work after taking his lumps in 2011. As fellow rookies Cam Newton and Andy Dalton thrived with Carolina and Cincinnati respectively, Gabbert completed 50.8 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while posting a 4-10 record.
Mularkey acknowledged that Gabbert needs improvement. But he also pointed to the fact that Gabbert started more games at his age than any other quarterback in NFL history. Gabbert turns 23 in October.
"Some guys can come right in and take off and some guys can use an offseason," said Mularkey, referring to the NFL lockout that wiped out last year’s workout programs. "I think Blaine was one of those guys who needed some time to get his feet wet, especially at his age. This will be good that we have some time with him in April and May. Obviously, his prior experience with these games is going to be good."
— Alex Marvez
Floyd owns up
It’s no secret Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd has had a troubled past, but he’s not hiding from it.
"I’ve grown a lot, it’s time to become a professional," he said.
Floyd, who was suspended indefinitely before the 2011 season because of a DUI, but was reinstated by head coach Brian Kelly. Floyd made the most of his opportunity, racking up 100 receptions for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns.
"I owe him a lot of thanks for sticking by me," said Floyd of his collegiate head coach. "He gave me a chance, I took that chance and I’m moving forward."
Floyd took immediate action by moving into the freshman dorms and even taking counseling. "I took alcoholic classes with a counselor and kids from Notre Dame. It was a great experience."
With all of the trouble in his past, Floyd plans to do as much as he can to raise his draft stock and will participate in all drills this week.
— Ross Jones
Texans focus on Williams
The Texans have made it a priority to find a way to get a deal done with defensive end Mario Williams.
"(Williams) is a great player and we want him to remain a part of this organization," Texans general manager Rick Smith said Friday at the combine. "We may have to restructure some contracts."
Williams, who suffered a season-ending injury, "fits" in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense, according to head coach Gary Kubiak.
"Mario is a part of the growth of the organization," said Kubiak who led the Texans to their first postseason berth in 2011. "I have a great deal of respect for him as a player and a person."
— Ross Jones
Looking sunny for Flynn
Matt Flynn is in the perfect spot at the perfect time.
He’s a quarterback who will be a free agent in an offseason when a few teams — Cleveland, Miami, Washington — need quarterbacks. The best spot for a free agent is to be the best player at a glamour position, because teams usually overpay. Especially at quarterback.
Flynn can make a lot of money as a free agent and he can also start — something that won’t happen with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. The Packers could put the franchise tag on Flynn. That would eat up $14.4 million of the salary cap, but might allow the Packers to receive compensation or work out a trade rather than lose Flynn for nothing.
Packers GM Ted Thompson addressed Flynn’s situation at the combine podium on Friday.
Well … he sort of addressed it.
"I don’t talk specifics about any of our guys that may or may not be free agents," Thompson said when asked if Flynn would be franchised, "and I certainly wouldn’t speculate on what our plans would be."
Thompson didn’t even want to get into evaluating Flynn as a player.
"Our policy is to try to keep all of our players, so we’d like to keep all our players," Thompson said. "I’m not going to stand here and tell all the other 31 teams what I think about Matt Flynn."
Then Thompson was asked: Given the financial and on-field enticements for Flynn, is it realistic to think the Packers can keep Flynn?
"It’s hard for me to predict," Thompson said. "I don’t think anybody can predict what’s going to happen in free agency."
— Pat McManamon
Rams sticking with Bradford
The St. Louis Rams might be in an advantageous position with the second pick in the draft.
The two top quarterbacks — Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III — are expected to go 1-2, which means the Rams could trade down with a Cleveland or Washington, gain extra picks and still get an excellent player.
Coach Jeff Fisher admitted that a trade down was a possibility in his appearance at the podium of the combine, but he eliminated one other possibility: The Rams will not trade Sam Bradford.
After saying the Rams have options with the pick, Fisher was asked if trading Bradford was one of the options.
Fisher responded bluntly: "That wouldn’t be an option."
Lewis worried about Maualuga
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis admitted to the media that there is "concern" about Rey Maualuga’s misdemeanor assault case.
"What he does away from football is important," Lewis said.
Maualuga, who allegedly punched a manager of a Cincinnati bar, pleaded not guilty in a written plea last week.
Maualuga has been a rock for the Bengals defense the last three seasons, but his off-the-field issues, including a DUI in 2010, could have the Bengals wondering whether he is worth keeping around.
— Ross Jones
Frazier likes Ponder
Christian Ponder has the confidence of Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.
"(Ponder) will do big things in Minnesota," Frazier said. "We need to get some playmakers around him and through our offensive line as well."
Ponder, who played in 11 games in his rookie season, must become a more accurate passer to elevate his game.
Although Frazier was emphatic about his support for Ponder, he did say the Vikings, who pick third in the 2012 NFL Draft, would do their homework on Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
"You have to do your due diligence," he said.
It’s likely that the Rams, who own the No. 2 spot in the draft, will trade for a bevy of picks, which would probably mean the top two quarterbacks will be off the board by the time the Vikings select. But if Griffin falls to the Vikings, it could present an interesting choice.
— Ross Jones
Elway talks Tebow
Broncos vice president of operations John Elway didn’t wait long for his first Tim Tebow question at the combine in Indianapolis. But the former All Pro quarterback will have to wait to work out with quarterback Tim Tebow.
"We can officially begin working out on May 1," said Elway, who was asked his thoughts on Tebow training with former Florida quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone at UCLA this past week. "I haven’t had any contact with Mazzone, but I know (Tebow) is going to do everything he can this offseason to get better," he said.
Despite leading the Broncos to the playoffs, it’s apparent Tebow must iron out his game if he wants to maintain his status as tops on the depth chart.
"We have to get him to do more things to be more successful in our offense," Elway said. "Mike McCoy did a lot to play to Tim’s strengths."
If the Broncos do look to address the backup quarterback position in the draft, Elway understands it would be a difficult situation for any rookie.
"Anyone that’s taken in the first, second or third round there’s always great expectations," he said.
— Ross Jones
Green looking to wow scouts
Ladarius Green might not be the most recognizable name among incoming NFL rookies, but he hopes to steal the show in Indianapolis.
"My biggest strength is my athletic ability, stretching the field, catching passes and creating mismatches," Green said Thursday at the combine.
Green, who measured in at 6-foot-5 and 238 pounds, hopes to impress teams with his speed on the 40-yard dash. How fast? "Probably around a 4.5," he said.
Green had a very consistent career at Louisiana-Lafayette, but became a big part of the team’s offense in his last two seasons, hauling in 15 touchdowns and racking up over 1,200 receiving yards.
"I take a lot of pride in that," Green said, capping his meeting with the media.
Reports: RG3 measures up to competition
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III put all speculation aside that he was shorter than the listed height of 6-foot-2.
Before the combine, it was widely-speculated that Griffin could be too short for the quarterback position at the NFL level.
Griffin was measured at 6-foot-2 3/8 inches Friday, according to multiple reports.
Dolphins, Chiefs win NFL draft coin toss
It’s official, the NFL draft order is set.
The Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs won today’s coin tosses at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The Dolphins, who own the eighth overall pick in the first round, won their coin toss against the Carolina Panthers, who are now slated to pick ninth overall.
The Chiefs won their coin toss against the Seattle Seahawks, which means the Chiefs will pick 11th and the Seahawks will pick 12th.
It was reported that the NFL made special coins with the teams’ logos, to avoid all heads-or-tails controversies.
Big Ben restructures deal; gets $10.7 million bonus
Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger restructured his contract, dropping his $11.6 million base salary for next season to $900,000.
For doing so, he received a $10.7 million bonus. His new salary-cap figure for this year is $8.895 million, down from $16.92 million.
However, the proration of the bonus has boosted his salary-cap figures for 2013 to $19.59 million, $15.89 milllion in 2014 and $15.39 million in 2015.