Sunday afternoon, your Eagletarian was allowed the rare privilege of penetrating the NFL Scouting Combine’s inner sanctum.
For some reason, the league doesn’t routinely allow the public and the media to witness the combine drills live. It shows the drills from eleventy-seven different camera angles on the NFL Network, but watch them with your own, unfiltered eyes? Not no way, not no how!
The past few years, though, the Pro Football Writers of America (we’re like the Justice League, only with better uniforms) has gotten the NFL to agree to let small, closely guided groups filter unobtrusively into an unoccupied stadium box to watch a few hours of workouts on Sunday. So it was that I grasped my notepad, hoisted my binoculars and took my place on this brave, historic mission, just before lunchtime yesterday.
We traipsed through the freshly carpeted halls of still-new Lucas Oil Stadium on the luxury box level. We assumed many of the luxury boxes we passed were filled with team personnel, through there were no helpful signs. It was nice of the Eagles to leave the door to their suite open, through which we spied – gasp – Marty Mornhinweg dipping into a bowl of potato chips. Marty responded wanly to our exuberant, glad-to-see-you wave. He seemed to be considering the possibility of having security Taser us. But we quickly caught up with our group, and his opportunity passed.
As for the drills themselves, they were disappointing, as an entertainment vehicle. The first thing we saw was the quarterback group running the 40. Many of the quarterbacks looked about as comfortable settling into a sprinter’s stance as your Eagletarian would have. And the 40 had about as much to do with the performance of their jobs as it does with mine. Yes, you want a QB who can sidestep the rush, who can buy himself a little time. But not being able to do that hasn’t kept, say, Kurt Warner from winning football games. We quickly surmised that among this group, the only thing that might happen that could affect someone’s draft status would be if he broke his leg and had to be put down. That didn’t happen.
Then the wideouts ran. They looked more like real sprinters – in fact, some of them were way too much like real sprinters, taking forever to settle into their stances, stretching this way and that, flexing and preening, false-starting.
We had been assigned the task of a pool report on Penn State wideout Jordan Norwood. On Friday, Norwood, 5-11, 179, had told reporters he wished he were 10 pounds heavier and five-hundredths of a second faster. After watching him run a 4.57, we were thinking maybe he’d like to amend that to, say, 15 or 20 hundredths of a second faster.
Norwood, who seemed like a really nice kid, probably shouldn’t be spending a whole lot of anticipated signing bonus money. He had a tough time in the “gauntlet” drill, the only really interesting part of the session, in which receivers run across the field like shooting range targets, hauling in footballs thrown at them from all angles and quickly jettisoning them before the next pass arrives. Watching this was like watching fast-forwarded L.J. Smith highlights, escept these guys were intentionally putting the ball on the ground.
We came away from our peek behind the curtain convinced that Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie is a very impressive receiver -- hands, body control, getting in and out of breaks. Which probably ensures the Eagles won’t draft him. And that Alabama quarterback, John Parker Wilson? His name is longer than his throws.
It was well past lunchtime when we were led back through the corridors to the media area, and we couldn’t even find Marty to try to bum a few potato chips.