JC's Combine Diary: Friday Update

The NFL Draft has become one of the most highly anticipated weekends in sports. But two months before we find out who's going where, 327 prospects will be weighed and measured like never before at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. From 40-yard dash times to Wonderlic scores and everything in between, players have the ability to make - or lose - an awful lot of money.

Greetings, Bears fans. I'll be spending four days in beautiful downtown Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, and as usual, I want to share the insider details from this one-of-a-kind event. Not only will the entire Scout.com Network be throwing a blanket over the RCA Dome and covering the action like no other, but BearReport.com will be putting a Bears-specific spin on all the important matters.

Weigh-ins, 40-yard dash times, bench press reps, shuttle runs, Wonderlic scores, and more interviews with more players, coaches, and scouts than you can possibly imagine ... plus a little fun along the way.

5:09 P.M.
Can I just tell you how big JaMarcus Russell is? I've seen Daunte Culpepper up close, and Russell is every bit as physically imposing as Culpepper is. He's been estimated at 6'5" and 260 pounds, although I think those are conservative figures.

Russell passed the Holy %$#& He's Huge! Test with flying colors.

Scouts tend to fall in love with 40-yard dash times and bench press reps, but so many of the coaches I talked to today reiterated that they are primariily looking for "football players" more than anything else. Jack Del Rio said that you can't consider a cornerback who has a 40 time of 5-flat, but that's coming from a guy whose organization drafted quarterback-turned-receiver Matt Jones out of Arkansas in the first round two years ago almost solely on his eye-popping Combine performance. Jones has 77 receptions for 1,075 yards and nine touchdowns in two seasons as a pro, and although he's still oozing with potential, he remains a question mark at this point.

Lovie Smith of the Bears was the second head coach to take the podium today, following new Dolphins front man Cam Cameron. Smith refused to give any further indication as to why he chose to jettison Ron Rivera in favor of Bob Babich as defensive coordinator, simply saying that he appreciates what Rivera has done for the Bears and wishes him well in San Diego. GM Jerry Angelo said on Thursday that Thomas Jones is ready to move on and wants a trade, so Smith played politician again and expressed how much he wants Jones to return while simultaneously praising Cedric Benson is a suitable replacement.

Giants head coach Tom Coughline certainly provided a few highlights today. After saying that he thinks Brandon Jacobs could succeed as his featured tailback and adequately replace Tiki Barber, media members started to hound him about Barber's recent criticism of his coaching philosophy. Coughlin was composed with his answers and defended his policies, but you could tell that he was bothered by Barber's public attack.

And I have to commend the NFL for scheduling Brad Childress of the Vikings and Rod Marinelli of the Lions within half an hour of each other because I needed to catch up on some much needed sleep.

The most spirited interview today came from Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, who is undeniably disturbed by the Adam 'Pacman' Jones situation. I have a feeling that Fisher would cut Jones tomorrow if he could, but the fact that he allegedly punched a stripper and incited a shooting spree in a Las Vegas nightclub will probably be trumped - again - by the fact that he's a supremely talented player.

Thankfully for Fisher, the Jones questions stopped just long enough for him to profess his shameless man-love for Vince Young ... and rightfully so.

4:44 P.M.
What's my favorite part of being a sports writer? It's probably when my fellow media types all get in the same room together for an event like, for example, this week's NFL Combine. ZZ Top wouldn't find too many sharp dressed men in this crowd. Lots of wrinkly black denim, lots of gleaming white walking shoes, and lots of bad haircuts and scraggly goatees. If you put a credential around Pig Pen's neck, trust me, he wouldn't be too out of place.

So far, the most impressive player I've talked to is Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas. He's projected to be a top-five pick, and he was awfully well-spoken at the podium today for close to 20 minutes. The Raiders have been incredibly disappointed by Robert Gallery, but for the most part, tackles are probably the safest draft picks that high in the draft. Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace - these are the guys you build offenses around, not skill-position players.

Somebody asked Thomas if he has a little bit of a mean streak in him since that can be considered a good thing for an offensive lineman.

"I think it's where it needs to be," he said very matter-of-factly. "I'm not afraid to turn that switch on when I got on that field. And if someone deserves it, they're going to get it."

Good thing his dad is a banker because Thomas is going to be cashing some serious checks very soon.

I also got to talk with Anthony Pudewell, a tight end out of Nevado-Reno. If you've never heard of him, don't worry, neither had I. It's safe to say that he hasn't given too many interviews in an atmosphere this big. He was plenty affable, but you could detect the nervousness in his voice very easily.

It was one of those uncomfortable player interviews when nobody's really interested enough to ask questions even though they're all holding a recorder in their hands, but I broke one of the awkward silences and asked which NFL tight end he likes to watch.

"I like to pattern my game after Jeremy Shockey," he said. "He's a good blocker, and he's pretty fiery out there. You see him yelling at everybody. He can also catch the ball obviously. He's got great hands."

He just had to mention a Miami guy, didn't he. Just once, give me some Florida State love. Doesn't anybody remember how good a player Lonnie Johnson was?

The most interesting tidbit of the day, you ask? Titans cornerback Adam 'Pacman' Jones has retained the same law firm that defended Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis back when he was tried for double-homicide. Just in case you hadn't heard, Jones is accused of punching a stripper and inciting a riot that resulted in three people being shot at a Las Vegas gentlemen's club a few days ago.

No word on whether or not Jones thought the stripper was asking for it.


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