'The NFL Beat': A Day in the Beat

Pigskin news and an update on Longhorns in the NFL

'The NFL Beat': A Day in the Beat

On Wednesday I took in the largest media event Waco has seen since the Branch Davidians’ standoff with the ATF in 1993. One hundred thirty credentialed media members and more than 80 representatives from between 28 and 32 NFL teams were on hand to see Heisman Trophy-winning Baylor QB Robert Griffin III toss the football with his friends.

It was his first time to throw in drills during the NFL’s predraft prospect evaluation period. On any other day, this would be the top story in the NFL world. Wednesday was not any other day though, as we all know. RG3 dazzled everyone. The Saints got a sledgehammer to the grill from Commissioner Roger Goodell. The most polarizingly genuine figure in sports became a backup QB for the league’s most cynical and turbulent fan base. These storylines can’t write themselves and I’m just a messenger to you, loyal reader. My job is easy. I saw it all and spoke with everyone. Now I’m here to spill it:

Robert Griffin III put on a clinic yesterday. When Baylor heard that Stanford’s pro day (set to feature QB Andrew Luck) was scheduled for the same day as they had originally planned, they moved theirs up one day in order to give their brightest star the undivided spotlight.

I watched Griffin throw standing next to a very interested group, including Redskins owner Dan Snyder who has recently mortgaged his franchise to acquire the No. 2 overall pick, ensuring the young man’s services in Washington, D.C. In speaking with both Redskins HC Mike Shanahan and Snyder after the workout, I can report with certainty that his was the type of performance that can even put a big smile on Shanahan’s brooding mug. They made the right move, and the Cleveland Browns were Wednesday’s biggest loser.

Dan Snyder is a much shorter man than I expected, and I can confirm that he does have a major complex regarding Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. While witnessing the abject sickness being put on exhibit by RG3 (the future of his franchise), all he could talk about was his discomfort with the Dallas Cowboys having their own private telecast present. I guess money really can’t buy happiness.

One less-heralded player who I have gotten to know, and have spoken with extensively at both the Senior Bowl and NFL combine, is Baylor RB Terrance Ganaway. All he did was score 21 rushing touchdowns last year in the Big XII. An Academic All-American and fixture on the Baylor dean’s list, he is a bigger back at 240 and strong as an ox, squatting more than 600 pounds. He had been having a lackluster draft season up until yesterday, running a 4.67 at the combine and showing poor pass blocking technique and similar vision as a runner the Senior Bowl. At Baylor's pro day, he answered a lot of questions. He showed terrific hands in receiving drills, improved his 40 time by a full .2 seconds to 4.47 and threw up 22 reps on the bench press. After the bench press drill, one AFC South scout turned to me and said, “That’s what you call making the most out of your opportunity.” After his impressive day, Ganaway revealed that this was the first time he has been fully healthy during the predraft evaluation process. Congrats Terrance, you made yourself some money, my friend.

If RG3 was yesterday’s headlining act, WR Kendall Wright provided direct support as the second-most highly touted prospect in attendance. He improved on his 4.61 40-time from the combine by turning in two excellent times: 4.46 and 4.41. When asked afterward how it felt to “carry around” the disappointing time from the combine for the last two weeks leading into pro day, he said, “I haven’t run over 4.6 since fifth grade. I wasn’t worried at all.” He was unprepared for the three-second pause required in Indianapolis prior to beginning the sprint, and had trouble with his start.

He came straight home, and it was all he worked on. Wright also had the catch of the day with a a dazzling one-handed snag on a beautiful fly route up the right sideline from Griffin. I spoke with one AFC South scout and one NFC West scout about their thoughts on Wright, and both shared a similar sentiment: He is exciting to watch, but he leaves you “wanting a little more," which they both acknowledged was a bit unfair given his physical size. He plays bigger than your average 5’ 10” WR, and they feel he is on the precipice of being an absolute star that hasn’t truly shown that next, truly elite level to his game.

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to speak with Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith, and no subject made him brighten up more than former Longhorn RB-turned-defensive lineman Henry Melton. When I asked if the Bears liked the development they had seen out of Melton, he said: “Love. You quote me on that. Not like. Love.” He went on to say, “It isn’t everyday you just come across a guy that scored 10 TDs in one season for a Big XII team who can play in a 3-(technique). He will be big part of this team and this defensive line for a long, long time. We love him. Quote that” So there. I quoted it.

More Notes Regarding Longhorns in the NFL

Jordan Shipley (WR Bengals) is recovering well from his ACL tear in September of 2011, and the team fully expects him to return to his starting slot WR role in 2012 and to be a more productive piece of the offense. I was also told that LB Roderick Muckelroy is on good pace in his rehabilitation process from 2011 Achilles surgery, but the sentiment was decidedly less positive and far less absolute regarding his sure availability to start game one in 2012.

Jamaal Charles (RB Chiefs), who suffered the same injury, by all accounts will be 100% ready to start game one next season in Kansas City. The primary reason for the Chiefs quick signing of Browns free agent RB Peyton Hillis was to protect Charles and keep some tread off his young tires.

Quan Cosby (WR/KR Colts) did a reverse-Peyton Manning, having been moved for the final week of the 2011 season from the Broncos to the Colts, where he has signed a 2-year contract. My source told me that the locker room in Indy is in disarray, and some players will not even know who their position coaches are until team meeting April 2, which the source viewed as being positive for Quan’s shot at significant playing time as they will be re-evaluating every position.

Bo Scaife (TE Bengals) was placed on IR quickly after signing a one-year deal with Cincinnati for the 2011 season with a neck injury, and it looks like things may be winding down for him as an NFL TE. I was reminded by my friend that he was told his junior year at Texas by Mack Brown that it may be wise to give up football after his repeated knee surgeries if he “didn’t want to end up an old man like me with nothing left down there.” No teams, even the Titans, were willing to give him a multi-year deal previously because of these concerns, which ended up with Scaife being franchised two years ago in Tennessee.

I wish it were better news regarding Sergio Kindle (LB Ravens), but it is not. I don’t really know how to say this and still protect my source, but things aren’t looking too good for him. While the skull fracture suffered falling down a staircase in Austin just prior to what would have been his rookie season has mostly healed, some tricky issues may remain as a result. I’ve asked Ravens HC John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome about Kindle’s status as recently as last week, and both responses were luke-warm, bottled coach-speak. I had previously been under the impression they were “cautiously optimistic” that he would be able to play football again in some form. I now know this is not the case. As much as it kills me to say it: If he makes it back on the football field, it may be the biggest accomplishment of his life.

Finally, a little tidbit that I don’t really know what to take from. The source that was so forthcoming about these other situations took on a very different tone when I asked if he had heard anything about Vince Young, who is a free agent after spending one season in Philly as a backup to Mike Vick. He said “Yea, I’m hearing some things. But knowing the line of work you’re in, I can’t talk about it.” I was a bit taken aback, and immediately thought this could mean three things: Young may be in consideration for a starting role with one of the many teams still in need of a serviceable option at QB; or Young may be close to signing another short-term deal as a backup somewhere; or something weird might be happening off the field, etc. Since I knew I wasn’t going to get the information directly, I asked, “Do you think Vince will ever be a starter in this league again?” His answer was somewhat telling. “Yes. But not right away. He may be a starter again, but not right away.” Take from it what you will, but to me that points most clearly to the possibility that VY is currently in talks with a team to come on again as a backup, and something seems likely to happen soon.

I didn’t even get to the Tebow going to the Jets or the bounty penalty for the Saints

Wow. What a day.

[Alex Dunlap is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America, the host of RosterWatch on 104.9FM ESPN Radio Austin, founder of Rosterwatch.com, and a featured expert contributor to the FantasyPros.com network.]

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Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow, Peyton Manning

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