I was not at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine, when Marko Mitchell had his vertical leap measured (pictured to the right) and eventually established himself as worthy of the Redskins seventh-round draft pick. In fact, I have never been the Combine, so when I found out that I would be heading to Indianpolis this year, I realized that — beyond what I’ve seen on the NFL Network — I had no real idea what to expect.
New Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, on the other hand, has been to a bunch of these events, and he and his staff have been preparing for this one since he got here two months ago. So I figured he might have some insight to offer me as I made my plans, some of hidden tricks of the Combine trade that would make my first trip go just a little more smoothly.
And I was right.
“Bring a jacket,” he said firmly. And then, just in case I had misunderstood, he added, “Not a sport coat.”
As it’s currently 22 degrees and flurrying in Indianapolis, this is sound advice — and not something I necessarily would’ve remembered — but it also wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.
So Allen tried again, although the Combine seemed to resist easy characterization. “There’s no place like this,” he said, “where you have every assistant coach in the NFL, every scout in the NFL, every team physician, entire training staff, every general manager, every head coach, all in one location, all trying to supposedly keep a secret of who they’re watching, who they like. And it’s interesting. Don’t get into a poker game with anyone, because there’s a lot of bluffing going on during this time.”
(I followed up by asking him if they notice that sort of thing, if they watch who other teams are watching, and he responded by silently demonstrating his own poker face. It was impassive, unreadable, and therefore presumably effective.)
But if I’m still working out how I can best handle the Combine experience, Allen has no such concerns.
“Scott [Campbell, director of player personnel] has managed to put together quite a tight agenda for me,” Allen said, holding up an inch-thick three-ring binder. “I don’t know how specific you want me to be, but … in the evenings, it’s gonna be mostly player interviews. During the day, you’re inside the dome watching the players work out. And in between everything, we’re meeting with a lot of agents who have our players to discuss, what tenders we might be putting on them, where they stand on our current roster. And, really, it becomes a twenty-hour-a-day football fest, so to speak.”
This is also, to a certain extent, the true start of the 2010 offseason. “It’s the first time I’m gonna be able to speak to some of the agents about our players,” Allen said, “and — obviously — they’re curious about what tenders we’re gonna put on and what Coach Shanahan and the coaches’ visions are for their clients.”
So Allen and Shanahan will be working not only on their draft class, but laying the groundwork for the veteran portion of the offseason as well. “We’re gonna have some vacancies,” Allen said bluntly, “and there’s gonna be good competitions. All the coaches, that’s what they’re looking for, and I think the players will embrace it. Now, not all the players that were on the team last year are gonna be here this year, but — once again — that’s not unique to the Redskins. We’re looking for players who wanna get better, because we have coaches who wanna help them get better.”
In other words, as we all prepare to depart for the Combine, Allen and his staff already have to be looking a few weeks ahead. And Allen is looking forward to what he sees there. “It’s gonna be an exciting day March 15 when our offseason program starts,” he said. “That’s the first day we can get some cleats on and try to get better as a football team.”
I depart for the Combine tomorrow, and will be posting from there here and via Twitter. If there’s anything you want me to try to find out while I’m there, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll do my best. If you have any problems with your comments not posting, check out our new How To Post Comments section. In the meantime, here’s a picture of 2009 third-round pick Kevin Barnes at last year’s Combine.
Tags: bruce allen, nfl combine
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