INDIANAPOLIS – Rex Ryan knows how to work the room. Bill Belichick dressed for the occasion and Jim Harbaugh is still very much about reducing drag.
The first day of media obligations at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine filled notebooks with anecdotes, quotes and memorable moments.
Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin opened the day by discussing the recent findings of the Ted Wells Report and the organizations corresponding decisions. "We're going to have a better workplace,” Philbin said. “I promise you that."
Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman said 2012 first-round pick Shea McClelan, a defensive end out of Boise State, will move to linebacker in 2014. The Bears will visit the 49ers next season.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, a respected talent evaluator, echoed the sentiments of many draft analysts on the 2014 draft class. “I've been doing this 30 some years, and this is the deepest draft I've seen.”
Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim helped his club win 11 games in 2013. Keim shared insight on what made the 49ers and Seahawks two of the top teams in the NFL. “Look at those two quarterbacks in particular, guys who can not only beat you with their arm, they can beat you with their feet as well,” Keim said. “Last year, we felt we had to get longer and more athletic on defense to try to be able to play on the perimeter with those guys. Because as plays break down, those guys get outside the pocket, so you have to have guys like (Karlos) Dansby and guys like Darryl Washington who can run and cover ground and play outside the box."
Denver Broncos head coach John Fox reflected on a lopsided defeat in Super Bowl XLVIII. “I give Seattle tremendous credit for playing very well, playing better than we did. I think as you look back, get a chance to look at the tape and expound on that, I think we’re capable of playing better. Not taking anything away from them, they had a lot to do with it. It was disappointing that we didn’t play better. We had a great season and unfortunately we did not have our best effort in the last game.”
Ryan, the New York Jets head coach, earned chuckles by opening his press conference with this gem: “Let me open it up for questions I can’t answer.” Ryan didn’t make any splashy comments – like predicting a Super Bowl win, which he did here in 2011.
Belichick, who rarely speaks at the combine, visited with the media for 15 minutes. He also dressed up for the session and left his signature cut-off hoodie back in New England. The respected coach opened with a story about watching William “Refrigerator” Perry doing the vertical jump in 1985, the year that the combine was held outdoors at Arizona State University. Belichick then moved into his thoughts on where the combine has gone in the year since. “I’m nowhere close to being able to give you any type of analysis or evaluation of what this draft is or isn’t, the Patriots coach said. “I’ve spent only the time since the end of the season — the Senior Bowl and film and now that it’s started here. But it certainly looks like there will be a lot of interesting players and certainly a lot of guys we have to do work on. This is the heaviest underclass group that’s come out.”
Harbaugh took to the podium in his signature black-on-khaki look. Perhaps the most memorable part of his media session was about his alma mater. Asked if he’ll return to Ann Arbor to help Michigan beat Ohio State, Harbaugh said, “There’s always next year.” He paused and then said, “Don’t underestimate the Wolverines.”
Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who stands 6-foot-5 and 262 pounds, is looking to follow in the footsteps as New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Seferian-Jenkins, too, has a basketball background and is hoping his athleticism translates into the NFL. Seferian-Jenkins said he believes he can be a difference-maker as a rookie. “If you watched me play, I split out and played receiver. I've done fullback. I've played in-line. I think I have showed I'm very capable of being a play-maker down the seam and run regular routes as a receiver and I've shown the capability of being a blocker and I'm an every down guy who can get out there immediately on the field.''
USC center Marcus Martin, rated No. 1 at his position according to NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock, is still recovering from a dislocated knee cap and a high-ankle sprain from a Nov. 30 game against UCLA. Martin, a versatile player who lined up at guard for the first two seasons of his college career, is looking to show his athletic talents at his pro day. Martin said he felt like he learned a lot from a chaotic year at USC where his head coach, Lane Kiffin, was fired. “You gotta persevere. No matter who the coach is, you gotta overcome. Things happen. You have to understand as a team and an individual. As a leader, you have to convey that across to the offensive line and the rest of your team. You have to learn how to pick up the slack and keep the ball rolling.”