It’s Evaluation Week … Monday Cup O’Chiefs

From Mobile, Alabama

The Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel sports a lobby that has two levels. On Sunday, both upstairs and downstairs were wall-to-wall football.

Clusters of men in warm-up suits sat and watched Green Bay-Chicago battle in the NFC Championship Game. Right next to them, would be a few other guys locked in an intense conversation, paying no attention to the Packers and Bears. Those conversations were invariably between an NFL scout and one of the players who will participate in the Under Armour Senior Bowl this coming weekend.

Sunday was check-in day for the nearly 100 players that are scheduled to take part in the week of practices leading up to next Sunday’s game. But there was very little time for those players to get settled or enjoy a look around Mobile. Those folks working for the 32 NFL teams were all competing for attention.

Like Pat Sperduto. Chiefs fans don’t know Sperduto, who is an area scout for GM Scott Pioli’s personnel operation. For some reason Pioli likes to keep his personnel people under wraps, so few people outside of the football operation at the Chiefs knows who these guys are.

But Sperduto was working hard Sunday afternoon. Sitting in side-by-side high backed chairs, he first grilled LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. A half-hour later, Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes had moved into the chair. Both players answered questions, and Sperduto took notes as fast as he could.

That’s what this week in Mobile is all about – the opportunity to crack the shell a bit on these NFL prospects that until this week had largely been protected by their college programs. These all-star games like last Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl, and a few other minor games that are played, are the first opportunity many teams have to sit down and have a conversation with these guys. The football ability is on tape for all to evaluate. The personality and intangibles have to come from other areas, and that’s what these lobby conversations are all about.

“This week is all about these young men having a chance to show the NFL who they are and what’s important to them,” said Steve Hale, a former college football coach who is the President & CEO Senior Bowl. “I’m real excited about these guys. We chose them and they chose us. They are trying to maximize their position going into this year’s draft.

“They’re a good, solid group of players, with good character and work ethic and I think that makes for it being a good week. It’s really neat to get to meet these guys who have that competitive spirit and are looking forward to the week and the challenges. They know they’re going to be scrutinized, but they also understand the opportunity they have. The Senior Bowl has a rich history of rewarding players that have continued to compete.”

The Senior Bowl is voluntary, so all the top prospects for the NFL Draft in April are not in town enjoying the seafood and those lobby conversations. First, those underclassmen who declared for the NFL Draft are not part of the Senior Bowl; the rosters for the North and South squads are strictly for players who have used up their college eligibility. Second, some of the higher rated players have been advised by their agents not to expose themselves too much in situations like all-star games and the NFL Combine. Instead, they are counseled to prepare for their personal workout day.

A number of players committed but changed their minds, including K-State RB Daniel Thomas.  Others that will not play are Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, Florida C/G Mike Pouncey, LSU DT Drake Nevis and North Carolina LB Quan Sturdivant.

Not many teams have any type of big board put together for the draft choices – the Senior Bowl and other events are for massaging the names and putting them in some type of order. So just for the sake of making a point, let’s look at the so-called “Big Board” for ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper for this week. He ranks the top 25 players that will be available in the Draft, and only six are on the playing roster for the Senior Bowl this week:

  • 9. LB Von Miller, Texas A&M.
  • 11. OT Nate Solder, Colorado.
  • 13. DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue.
  • 19. OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin.
  • 21. OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College.
  • 25. QB Jake Locker, Washington.

Here are the offensive players who are in Mobile this week. These are the defensive players that will take part in the Senior Bowl.

Locker and Miller spoke to the media on Sunday and left little doubt they felt it was important for them to be participating in the Senior Bowl.

“I’m excited about being here and competing against some of these guys that you see on Saturdays,” Locker said. “Any chance to compete against the caliber of players like the ones that will be here this week is exciting.”

Said Miller: “It’s a privilege to be invited here and take part in this. I want to come here and work, learn what I can and just compete. I play by taking it down-by-down and that’s how I’m taking this week. Day-by-day, I’ve got my blinders on and I want to improve.”

Mississippi State OT Derek Sherrod is one of the higher ranked players with most teams and he views the week as his chance to have some fun.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s a time when you can get together and see how everybody matches up with each other. We’re all going to go out there and fight hard so we can better ourselves in front of the scouts. I will just go out there and have fun and play hard and play like I normally do.”

The Buffalo Bills’ staff under head coach Chan Gailey will handle the South team and the Cincinnati Bengals’ staff of head coach Marvin Lewis will coach the North team. The first practice for both teams comes Monday afternoon. That will be followed by sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with a walkthrough session on Friday.

Actually the first activity on Monday will be weigh-in for all the players. Unlike the NFL Combine, there is minimal physical testing at the Senior Bowl, but NFL teams and scouts want to see the real numbers on how tall a player is, how much he’s weighing in the six weeks since his season ended and a few other particulars.

Then for the rest of the week it’s practice and chatting with NFL types in meeting rooms and the lobby.


  • PRO BOWL – the NFL named Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali and SS Eric Berry to the AFC team as replacements for Steelers OLB James Harrison and S Troy Polamalu; Cardinals DT Darnell Dockett to the NFC team as a replacement for Vikings DT Kevin Williams; named Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald to the NFC team as a replacement for Packers WR Greg Jennings; named Saints S Roman Harper to the NFC team as a replacement for Packers S Nick Collins; named Vikings CB Antoine Winfield to the NFC team as a replacement for Packers CB Charles Woodson; named Buccaneers OT Donald Penn to the NFC team as a replacement for Packers OT Chad Clifton.
  • NFL – named the three finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award: Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha, Bears DE Israel Idonije and Vikings S Madieu Williams.
  • NFL – fined Steelers G Chris Kemoeatu $12,500 for unnecessary roughness in the post-season game against the Ravens.
  • BILLS – named Dave Wannstedt assistant head coach/linebackers coach.
  • BROWNS – named Dick Jauron defensive coordinator.
  • BUCCANEERS – fired offensive line coach Pete Mangurian; hired Pat Morris as offensive line coach.
  • CHARGERS – named Jason Michael tight ends coach.
  • DOLPHINS – signed GM Jeff Ireland to a multi-year contract extension through 2013.
  • FALCONS – TE Tony Gonzalez said Friday he would return for a 15th season in 2011.
  • 49ERS – named Brad Seely special teams coach; announced that four assistants from Mike Singletary’s coaching staff were being retained: DL coach Jim Tomsula, OL coach Mike Solari, RB coach Tom Rathman and assistant O-Line coach Ray Brown.
  • JETS – signed DT Martin Tevaseu off their practice squad; released CB Isaiah Trufant.
  • LIONS – QB Matthew Stafford had surgery on his right shoulder on Friday. Stafford should be ready for the team’s May mini-camp.
  • PANTHERS – named Mike Shula quarterbacks coach.
  • SAINTS – signed CFL DT Tom Johnson. He played last year for Calgary.
  • SEAHAWKS – signed reserve/futures contracts with TE Dominique Byrd, FB A.J. Schable and CB Brandon Browner.
  • VIKINGS – signed CFL WR Emmanuel Arceneaux to a 3-year contract. He played last year for the B.C. Lions.

3 Responses to “It’s Evaluation Week … Monday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • January 24, 2011  - Blake says:

    Hey Bob what do you think Todd Haley looks for in a WR? Do you think he likes good route runners, great hands, possession, big guys, fast guys, quick guys, tall guys, short, guys that get lots of yards after the catch?? Also what positions do you think KC will go after in the draft?

  • January 24, 2011  - BigJimInWisconsin says:

    “NFL – named the three finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award: Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha, Bears DE Israel Idonije and Vikings S Madieu Williams.”
    **So I guess that a pronunciation key will be part of the program guide?

    Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron? The previous Chicago Bears head coaches are coming out of the woodwork!

    Go CHIEFS!

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