Live from the Combine: Thursday

Refresh this blog-style story throughout the day for news and views from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. With things winding down for the day, let's look ahead to Friday.

4:15 p.m.: Looking ahead

With things winding down from here, it's time to look ahead to Friday.

Friday will be the biggest day of the Scouting Combine, with Packers coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson meeting the press for what promises to be an exciting and information-filled session.

Plus, workouts begin on Friday. And meeting with the media will be the marquee skill players: quarterbacks, receivers and running backs.

3:47 p.m.: Fire alarm

A fire alarm just went off here and the automated voice ordered us to leave the building. Of course, nobody has done that and the prospects are still talking at the podium. Cross your fingers that a huge fireball doesn't engulf us!

3:23 p.m.: Stadium survey

The NFL Players Association passed out its bi-annual NFL Players Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey.

Players were asked to vote for their three favorite playing surfaces and three least-favorite playing surfaces. Among the grass-field teams, Lambeau Field ranked eighth out of 18 teams on the favorite list and sixth in the least-favorite list.

That's a slight improvement over the last survey. In 2006, Lambeau ranked 10th out of 19 grass fields on the favorite list and sixth on the least-favorite list.

Arizona was voted the best grass field. Pittsburgh was voted the worst grass field.

3:14 p.m.: Casey at the bat

Rice tight end James Casey has an interesting story.

When he was sitting in a high school classroom as a sophomore, the trailer where he lived caught fire and his mother, Susan, died.

Out of high school, the hard-throwing right-hander played rookie ball in the Chicago White Sox organization. But because of a lack of control, he gave up baseball and joined Rice as a linebacker.

From there, he moved to defensive end to Wildcat quarterback to H-back to slot receiver to running back. Last season, he caught a whopping 111 passes.

At 24 years old, Casey declared for the draft after just his sophomore season. The academic all-American says he's open to playing any position, and would be an intriguing talent to a creative offensive mind like Mike McCarthy.

"The Wildcat formation is definitely something I'm suited for. I can throw the ball real well, so I think it's something I could do."

2:20: Eagles hired Brandt

The Philadelphia Eagles have hired Andrew Brandt to be a salary cap consultant, we've been told by our Adam Caplan.

Brandt was the Packers' vice president of player finance from 1999 through 2007 and was one of the finalists to be the successor to Bob Harlan, but that job went to Mark Murphy.

Brandt has East Coast ties. He was born in Washington, D.C., and is a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

2:15: Coffman's questions

Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, the prolific pass-catching son of former Packers tight end Paul Coffman, broke a toe during the Alamo Bowl and won't be able to work out for scouts until his pro day in March.

That's a problem for Coffman, who, because of the Tigers' spread offense, almost never lined up in a two-point stance to block.

Coffman's last trip to Green Bay was when he was 10, and was on the sideline to watch his dad play at Lambeau Field.

"It was a great place to play," said Coffman, who figures to be a late-second/early-third-round pick.

1:44: Top tackles

Baylor's Jason Smith might be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. He's certainly got to be the funnest guy here, with his big laugh and stories about deer hunting, bass fishing and rodeo team roping.

Told that one of his coaches couldn't think of any weaknesses in Smith's game, he laughed and said, "I can't think of any, either."

He drew laughs when he said he enjoys "physically assaulting" defenders.

One guy who could be of interst to the Packers at No. 9 overall is Michael Oher, who can play both tackle positions. A book has been written about his life, with him going from homeless to the Dean's List to, now, the NFL.

Oher didn't allow a sack in 2008 and just one in 2007 - and that was because he relaxed when he thought the ball was thrown.

Oher ranks fourth on some scouts' list of tackles. Told that, Oher said, "I feel that I'm the best. I think I've proven that this year."

1:30: Lots of linemen

It's been a parade of top-notch offensive linemen to the podiums and surrounding tables.

BYU's Travis Bright did his missionary work in Detroit. The big guard acknowledges his footwork and athleticism need some work, but with a big smile, he said, "It's just always fun to roll a guy up."

Stanford's Alexander Fletcher is a four-year starter, with those starts split equally between guard and center. The Cardinal run a lot of zone, so he'd be a great fit in Green Bay. He knows his versatility will be an attraction, since teams generally suit up only seven or eight linemen on game days.

Arguably the top center in the draft, Cal's Alex Mack, probably will not work out this week because of a sprained issue that was "poked and prodded by at least 20 doctors." He's tough and intelligent, and he enjoyed the challenge of facing Boston College's B.J. Raji at the Senior Bowl.

12:20: Challenge ahead for Packers

Kevin Colbert, the Pittsburgh Steelers' director of pro personnel, talked in depth about what it takes to build a 3-4 defense.

Colbert said this year's draft class is short of nose tackles after projected top-10 pick B.J. Raji and is weak at defensive end, too. Outside linebacker is a strength in this draft, though some of that is dependent on how the undersized 4-3 defensive ends like Brian Orapko of Texas and Everette Brown of Florida State do in drills this week.

Also, with more teams going to a 3-4, the talent pool for 3-4 players is being diminished, he said.

Check back today for a story on Colbert's exchange, including his thoughts on the Packers addition of former Steelers players Kevin Greene and Darren Perry as coaches.

11:23: Gross gets franchise tag

Getting Julius Peppers just became a whole lot more difficult.

The Carolina Panthers signed All-Pro left tackle to a six-year contract extension on Thursday, our Adam Caplan is reporting. That means the Panthers will use the franchise tag on Peppers.

Peppers said last week that he would ask for a trade if he is franchised. On Wednesday, the Charlotte Observer said Peppers has four teams on his wish list, including three from the NFC (one of which is Dallas).

Peppers has said he wants to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. That is what the Packers will begin running this season under Dom Capers. Getting him now, though, will require a lot of money and almost certainly a first-round draft pick.

11:16: Boone leads off interviews

The first player at the podium was Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone, who was arrested recently and charged with public intoxication.

Boone said he's "not really sure" how the incident will affect his draft status and is seeing a counselor to remain sober. Our Chris Steuber thinks Boone is a fifth-round prospect at a position where the Packers certainly have a need with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher getting up there in years and Tauscher being a free agent coming off a torn ACL.

Boone played left and right tackle for the Buckeyes, but likely would be a right tackle in the NFL, even though he said he feels "more comfortable" at left tackle. He yielded two sacks last season: to Texas' Brian Orakpo and USC's Clay Matthews Jr.

As for the drinking incident, he said the positive in it is that it "made me realize I don't need it" anymore.

10:36 a.m.: Schwartz meets the press

New Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz just met with the media. He's the only coach speaking today of any interest to Packers fans. Among the highlights:

- Schwartz on luring free agents to an 0-16 team: "I don't think anyone makes decisions strictly on the year before. The NFL offers a chance to turn things around (faster than other leagues)."

- He says the Lions have not decided whether to take one of the top quarterbacks with the No. 1 overall pick of the draft.

- He likened selecting at No. 1 as akin to playing blackjack at the $10,000 table rather than the $5 table. If you make bad decisions at the high-stakes table, "You're walking home, not flying home."

- He said the Lions will build their team as if it played outdoors rather than Ford Field because of the possibility of late-season trips to Green Bay and Chicago. Teams that are big and physical never are impacted by the elements.

- The Lions will be "multidimensional" on offense - something he learned from one of his proteges, Bill Belichick - and will continue to run a 4-3 defense because switching to a 3-4 would require a "major overhaul" of talent.

9:31 a.m.: Opening thoughts

Good morning from Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, just a stone's throw from the rubble that was the RCA Dome.

It's going to be a big day, with the offensive line, tight ends and special teams prospects meeting with the press, as well as several coaches (the Packers' Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson talk on Friday). Plus, today is the deadline to name franchise players, and the biggest decision is looming in Carolina between defensive end Julius Peppers and All-Pro left tackle Jordan Gross.

Speaking of franchise players, the feeling from Indy is this going to be a lousy class of free agents. So many teams are so far under the salary cap that they are locking up their best players or simply giving them the franchise tag.

So, while the Packers enter the offseason some $25 million under the cap, there aren't going be a whole lot of difference-makers available. With that in mind, this free agent period is going to be short and sweet, with anyone who's anyone likely to be signed within days of free agency's start on Feb. 27.

- Players do not begin their workouts until Friday.

- Also, we will have coverage throughout the day by our NFL experts Ed Thompson and Chris Steuber, along with breaking NFL news by our Adam Caplan.

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