Opportunity is the name of the game this week as former collegiate players from across the country get the chance to perform in front of NFL coaches, player personnel directors, general managers and others in hopes of improving their position in the upcoming NFL draft.
Sunday marked the arrival time for nearly half of the 100 participating players, as well as the bulk of NFL front office staffs, personnel evaluators and coaches. On tap yesterday for the players: physicals, testing, equipment/apparel distribution and team meetings.
Senior Bowl president and CEO Steve Hale said he is pleased with the talent level that will make up the North and South rosters for this year's game and believes the fans watching Saturday's game, as well as the NFL scouts viewing the week of practices, will notice that as well.
"I think when it's all said and done it's going to be a real competitive, quality group with depth," Hale said. "Particularly at quarterback. At this time a year ago, we didn't realize we were going to have two quarterbacks in the first 12 picks of the draft, but I think the quarterbacks [in this year's game] are all unique. It's going to be a fun group to watch because so many of them bring different attributes at that position."
When examining the rosters, the crop of defensive players appears strong – arguably the best in recent years. Two players missing due to injury include Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. Tannehill is projected as the third best QB available, after Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Floyd headlined the senior draft class at wide receiver, but he backed out after an injury in the Fighting Irish's Champs Sports Bowl game loss.
DE Jack Crawford
The kickoff press conference featured two Penn State players, DE Jack Crawford and CB D'Anton Lynn, who met with the media on Sunday to share their thoughts on legendary coach Joe Paterno, who passed away yesterday.
"When I heard the news this morning it was definitely really tough, especially being down here and not up there with my teammates, all my classmates," Lynn said. "It was really tough. I'm from Texas and went to all the way up to Penn State because I knew I would grow more as a football player and as a man under Coach Paterno than I would at any other school. He lived up to that expectation."
"It's tough because of the circumstances that it happened under," said Crawford. "I felt like just from the inside looking out, some people forget that he donated his whole life to the program. It's mainly all the time and effort. People tend to look over that really quickly and I have no idea what happened. I just go by what I know and what he told me in my experience. I think it was harder to swallow when he first got fired. It's a sad time for the entire Penn State family."
The first official rosters were also announced on Sunday. Among the new additions are Cincinnati defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, California wide receiver Marvin Jones and Texas A&M defensive lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie. Team meetings were conducted Sunday night, with coach Mike Shanahan and his Washington Redskins staff leading the South and Leslie Frazier and his Minnesota Vikings staff coaching the North.
Today, the annual national weigh-in is scheduled at the Mobile Convention Center from 10:30-11:45 a.m. The North team then practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, site of Saturday's game, and the South team practices at Fairhope's Municipal Stadium – both from 2:45-4:15 p.m. All other practices will be at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, with the North practicing in the mornings and South holding afternoon practices
Chicago Bears connections are abundant in Mobile. Besides Frazier coaching the North, Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary serves as one of Frazier's assistants. Drew Butler, a 6-2, 214-pound punter from Georgia on the South squad, is the son of former Bears placekicker and Chicago's all-time leading scorer Kevin Butler.
Stick with Bear Report this week as we bring you all the action from what should be an exciting and informative Senior Bowl week.
Jeff Curts has written for the Bleacher Report, Examiner.com, NFL Draft Dog and published The Slant...NFL Draft Newsletter. Curts is a graduate of Sports Management Worldwide, having completed the Scout & General Manager course under the direction of former NFL scout and current Sporting News draft expert Russ Lande. Jeff is founder and publisher of the Web site Bears Claws and hosts the program "Bears Claws" on BlogtalkRadio. He is a regular contributor to BearReport.com.