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Pi Network

Lou: is providing Draft King with a series of articles direct from Indianapolis, the site of the 2008 NFL Combine. Enjoy!

February 21, 2008

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 1
By: Nicholas Minnix,

Delay of game, Mother Nature.

KFFL's trip to the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine hit a snag when precipitation decided to be inconsiderate to our itinerary. While, at first, managing editor Cory J. Bonini and I found the multiple delays humorous, the weather began to frustrate us the more frequent they became.

We departed San Diego and arrived at our gate in Houston only about 40 minutes or later than scheduled. Our connecting flight was delayed one hour and 40 minutes - originally - though, so we had some time to spare.

Everyone has bad fortunes in their travels, so no need to dwell on ours. It's hard to concentrate on them when it's 12 degrees, anyway. My oh my, how San Diego climate has softened us....

The combine is always a bit of hustle mixed with a little bustle, but the first day, as expected, was fairly light. Things won't get hot and heavy until tomorrow, when the quarterbacks, running backs and wideouts begin workouts. It'll be a mad house around the Indiana Convention Center.

First up, though, were offensive linemen, special teamers and tight ends. Some of the biggest names to hit the podiums included University of Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long and Boise St. offensive tackle Ryan Clady, both certain first-round commodities. Southern California's Fred Davis and Notre Dame's John Carlson, likely two of the draft's top names at tight end, also had spent a few minutes with the press.

I found one draft prospect particularly interesting, though. Tight end Jacob Tamme, a University of Kentucky product, enters this draft seemingly pigeonholed into one category of players at his position: excellent pass catcher, incapable blocker. Much of that likely has to do with his size - the butchers at the combine informed him that his frame came in at a relatively puny 6-foot-3 1/2, 236 pounds. That's after he said he put on five or six pounds this offseason.

Tamme, like any other player here, believes that he has what it takes to contribute to whatever team takes him. He very well may. Blocking, he says, is more about heart, determination and technique, the final part of that equation being the part that he's still learning about. His logic: Whether you're 260 pounds, 250 pounds or 240 pounds, you're undersized versus most defensive ends in the NFL.

That may be true, but those extra 10 or 20 pounds sure wouldn't hurt. No matter how you slice it, Tamme is probably going to have to make himself more valuable as a receiver than as a blocker. That's certainly possible, and it's how he could eventually make himself more valuable to fantasy owners, too, but don't write his name on your cheat sheet yet. He's a converted wideout who runs in the 4.5 range. Watching him at UK, he seemed to have a knack for getting open and bailing out his quarterback (Andre Woodson, one of this year's top prospects at the position) in crucial third-down situations. He recorded 56 catches for 619 yards and six scores in his senior year.

Tamme discussed his high school career, one that involved four state championships, a bit, too. His teams at Boyle County High School in Danville, Ky., went 58-2 in his four seasons, but he noted that his senior season was toughest. After going 45-0 in his first three years, his squad began 3-2 - a "big shock," as he put it. He said that's the kind of adversity you learn from, that allows you to recover and win a fourth state title; that allows you to come in and help a program like Kentucky's turn things around; that allows you to succeed in the NFL. Tamme said he didn't know if he was as good as the Indianapolis Colts' Dallas Clark, the Kansas City Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez or the (for now) New York Giants' Jeremy Shockey, but that's who he studies.

The combine always presents the opportunity to learn more about these players in that regard. It's an insightful experience. It doesn't mean much when these boys strap on the pads and prepare to trade snot, but it's nice to know a little more about what drives them or how they perceive themselves.

Earlier in the day, the NFL Competition Committee addressed the media regarding possible rule and format changes. The group comprised Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay, Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian and New York Giants co-owner John Mara. The main topic of interest: the New England Patriots and Spygate. Or at least it was to the media.

McKay said that he didn't want to speak for everyone, but he considered it a dead issue; he thought that the penalty handed down to the Pats was very severe. Polian felt that, although no members of the committee had seen the tapes, there was no need to do so; he agreed that this morning's briefing on the situation was efficient, detailed and thorough. Polian thought that the league arrived at satisfactory disciplinary action. Mara said that he was just tired of hearing about it; I have to say, I echo that sentiment, as I'm sure many do.

Fisher faced one final question about it though: If he were taking his team into the Super Bowl and learned that the opposition was filming his walkthrough, how would he react? He said he wouldn't answer because of the ongoing investigation, but he jokingly suggested that the questioner could speculate what his answer might be. In other words, no one takes that sort of thing lightly.

The committee commented on other topics throughout the press conference as well. Fisher said that he didn't expect any rules changes regarding timeouts taken immediately before field goal attempts. He essentially said coaches soon realized that it could hurt just as much as it helps, and besides, you can't legislate when you can call a timeout.

The group also touched on the possible addition of a fifth preseason game and thoughts on reseeding during the playoffs. The disbandment of NFL Europe means that teams will have to find other ways to develop players, particular quarterbacks and offensive linemen, per Newsome, in game action. Is a fifth preseason game the answer? In the NFL, there's no such thing as overkill. As for reseeding, Fisher acknowledged that the crew wanted to come up with a resolution that would address the pros and cons. A pro: Reseeding would avoid forcing, say, a 12-4 team to travel to face a 9-7 team. A con: The committee has always emphasized that winning a division is the best way to get in and host a game. Sounds like you're going to have to make one or the other unhappy, Jeff; don't expect the playoff structure to change when the committee reconvenes in two weeks.

That's it from the first day at the combine. You might be wondering, Are the sandwiches any better this time around? The answer is: I don't know - I was a little late getting to the trough, so I picked through the scraps. A big plus: They were on fresh rolls, not stale bread. A major minus: I was too late and was left with the remaining slice of lunch meat.


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