The Stuff You Hear and Learn at the Combine

From Indianapolis, Indiana

Pull together over 325 players all trying to deal with the pressure of the most lucrative job interview they’ll ever have. Mix in 32 teams with GMs, personnel directors and head coaches, all shuffling the talent deck and trying to find the aces and face cards. Shake into the mix the media horde, looking, prying and stirring things up and that’s the NFL Scouting Combine.

All those people, all those voices – one never knows what might be heard from some of the game’s movers and shakers. Here are a few noteworthy comments from Friday’s action at the Combine.

Mea Culpa My Name Is Rex Ryan

“Looking back, it was a huge mistake to make that guarantee,” New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said of his Super Bowl guarantee made last season. The Jets didn’t even make the playoffs as the team disintegrated. “I thought it would motivate our team to talk about the team, to focus on the Super Bowl. In hindsight, I think it put undue pressure on the team. We lost focus on what we do best. It was obviously a big mistake.”

Give Ryan credit for accepting his hand in the fall of his team. He promised it won’t happen again, which may have been just another form of a guarantee that he should have stayed away from.

Steelers Slash To Save Wallace

WR Mike Wallace is one of the most dynamic young offensive players in the NFL right now. The third-year receiver caught 72 passes for 1,193 yards and eight TDs last year for the Steelers in their 12-4 season. He will be a restricted free agent if Pittsburgh cannot get him signed by March 12.

Make no mistake the Steelers want to re-sign Wallace.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that Mike Wallace remains part of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I think that’s Mike’s belief as well,” said Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. “Usually when you’ve got two parties who share the same goal, it’s easier to achieve that goal.”

The problem for the Steelers isn’t the desire to re-sign Wallace, but the salary-cap space. All winter they have exceeded the league’s expected cap number for the 2012. Various players, including most recently Ben Roethlisberger, have revamped their contracts to loosen up some of the salary cap dollars.

Colbert didn’t rule out the possibility of using the franchise tag on Wallace as well. Colbert also said he’s “pretty sure” the team will protect Wallace with a first-round tender. Everything just hinges on what the final salary-cap number will be.

“The thing I can say for sure about Mike is that we want Mike to finish his career with the Steelers,” Colbert said. “And I’m very confident that Mike wants to finish his career with the Steelers and play with a great quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger and the other receivers we have to compliment him. We think he’s only scratched the surface in what he can do. There’s a lot left there that still could be developed.”


Second-year Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur did everything but fly a banner over Lucas Oil Stadium saying “Let’s Make A Deal.”

Shurmur wants the league to know the Browns are willing to roll the dice with their two first-round selections in the 2012 NFL Draft

“I wouldn’t say we’re hesitant to do anything,” Shurmur said. “We’re excited about the fact that we’re going to make our team better with this draft, and I think that’s the way we approach it. We’re not hesitant at all.

“I think we’re willing (to move up). With two first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 22), we have flexibility. We can just stand pat and take two really fine players; guys that we hope would be starters for us. And then, obviously with two first-round picks, you have flexibility if you want to do something.”


The Miami Dolphins have a new head coach in Joe Philbin, once the offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers.

And, they have the same old problem – quarterback. Since 1999, the Dolphins have used 15 different starters at the position. All that came after the retirement of Hall of Famer Dan Marino.

It’s quite a list of QB’s that could not hold the job: Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, A.J. Feeley, Gus Frerotte, Sage Rosenfels, Brian Griese, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen and Matt Moore.

“The quarterback is an important position in the offense and an important position on the football team,” Philbin said Thursday. “We’ve got to have a player perform with success at that position. But we don’t have a mandate that the player has to be 24-years-old or 33-years-old or 29-years old.

“We’re looking for a manager, a leader, an accurate passer, a decision maker and a guy who can make a play when we need it. And however that shakes out, it’s fine by us.”

Added GM Jeff Ireland: “I don’t think it has to be a long-term solution. I think you can get a short-term solution. Obviously you’d like a long-term solution, but you can do both. You can certainly try and get both in that regard. But it’s my job to try and grow the team for today and for the future. And Joe’s responsibility is to try and win today with a mind to the future as well.”

He Knows These Quarterbacks

San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh has a unique perspective on the two top QBs in this year’s draft class – Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. He recruited and coached Luck at Stanford; he recruited but didn’t get a chance to coach Griffin, who went to Baylor.

Let’s start with his thoughts about Luck.

“He’s got all the qualities, and is mentally and physically as prepared as anyone you’re going to find,” Harbaugh said. “That’s my opinion. And he’s really good. How about that one?

“He’s one of the finest football players I’ve ever been around. Is that good enough? And he’s an even better person. One of the top five guys I’ve ever been around; a joy to coach. I’m not going to like playing against him; not looking forward to that.”

Harbaugh recruited Griffin heavily but lost out to Baylor on RG3.

“Robert was a 4.0 student, great parents, came from a great home and he’s had great success at Baylor,” Harbaugh said. “Past performance usually indicates future success and he’s had nothing but a history of success. So you would predict great achievements in the future. I was really fond of Robert through the recruiting process and he made that decision. He makes good decisions, he makes cool decisions. He’s very conscientious in everything he does, and I respected his decision and wished him well.”

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