During the middle of the question, Clint Sintim laughs. It's not a funny-ha-ha sort of laugh. Rather, it's a knowing laugh.
College defensive ends Brian Orakpo, Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin are all potential top-12 picks for teams like the Green Bay Packers, who need a playmaking outside linebacker for their 3-4 defense.
Sintim, a four-year starting linebacker at Virginia, isn't mentioned in the same breath. Only rarely does he even get a first-round nod in most experts' mock drafts. Yet, unlike the others, Sintim not only has played in a 3-4 defense, but he's excelled in it.
"It's a little nitpicky, but, hey, that's what they get paid for, man," Sintim told Packer Report last week. "All I know is they don't make the picks. They can nitpick all they want. As long as the 32 teams like me, I'm fine."
It's hard not to like Sintim. He's a personable, intelligent man. At 6-foot-3 and 256 pounds, he's got great size. With starts in all 49 collegiate games, he's tough and experienced. Oh, and productive. As a senior, he led the nation's linebackers with 11 sacks. He added 13 tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble and two recoveries. He finished his career with 27 sacks.
Still, Sintim isn't considered an elite prospect. Maybe it's because he benefitted from being coached by Al Groh, who coached the New York Jets and worked under Bill Parcells for more than a decade. With that kind of coaching, does Sintim have much upside? And then there was his workout at the Scouting Combine. His 4.82-seconds timing in the 40 failed to impress.
But then you turn on the tape. There's Sintim running past the offensive tackle and nailing the quarterback. There's Sintim shedding the fullback and stopping the runner at the line of scrimmage. That tape is Sintim's answer to concerns brewing from his workout.
"I tell (the critics) you can run as fast as you want to on the track. It doesn't mean you're as fast on the field," Sintim said. "I'm a football player, man. Anybody who watches tape knows that I can play football and I move well out there on the field. A 40 measures just that: how fast you run the 40. It doesn't say how fast you play football. Not to say it isn't an important aspect in this whole process, but it's only one part. I think the biggest piece of this is the game tape, and I think I have a pretty solid game tape."
The tape is a huge benefit for teams trying to find an outside linebacker for their 3-4 defense. While scouts and general managers have to guess how defensive ends like Orakpo, Brown, Maybin, Connor Barwin and Robert Ayers will transfer to linebacker, there's no guesswork with Sintim. He's lined up in that position on about 3,000 collegiate snaps.
"It's beautiful, man. It makes me that much more happy that I went to Virginia," Sintim said. "You've got all these guys out here who are very good players but a lot of them are defensive ends. They're saying, ‘Can you play in a 3-4? Can you do this? Can you do that?' There's really no projecting for me. It's something that I've done for the last four years."
It helps to have been coached by Groh, who was the linebackers coach for the New York Giants when Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks were dominant defenders. Late last season, Groh called Sintim one of the finest all-around linebackers he's coached in his career.
"To be in the presence of those guys and be coached by the same guy who's coached such great players, it's a humbling experience," Sintim said. "I've learned a lot during my five years here. I couldn't ask for anything more."
Asked if there was a player he patterned his game after, Sintim said Miami's Joey Porter. Some scouts have used that comparison, as well. Porter, who is similar to Sintim in size at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, has 83 sacks in 10 NFL seasons, including a career-high 17.5 operating in the Dolphins' 3-4 defense last season.
"I don't know if my game is similar, but I really respect Joey Porter's game," Sintim said. "I think he's a hell of a player and I really appreciate the way he plays the game. He'd be my favorite player. I try to model my game after him. You want to play with that type of passion."
Sintim is a solid all-around player, but it's his pass-rushing production that stands out. He led college linebackers in 2007 with nine sacks, but that was when playing alongside the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, defensive end Chris Long. With Long in St. Louis with the Rams, Sintim responded with an even better season in 2008, including a run of five games in a row with at least one sack.
Sintim laughed when asked about his favorite pass-rushing move. No reason to give away any secrets, after all.
"Pass rushing is all about want-to," he said. "Keep trying and keep grinding. If you've got a big guy out there trying to block and keep you away from the quarterback, you've just got to keep churning and try to use your athleticism vs. his size. Just grind away at it. There's not too much of a science to it. A lot of times, it just comes down to who wants it more."
Taking Sintim at No. 9 would be too early, but there's at least a decent chance that Ted Thompson moves back in the first round. Or, maybe Sintim is available when the Packers are on the board at No. 41. Sintim had a formal interview with the Packers at the Scouting Combine.
In wrapping up the interview, this reporter wished Sintim luck on draft day and said perhaps we'd be talking in person in the Packers' locker room during the postdraft minicamp. Sintim's reply?
"You and me both, man."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport