Weighing the talents of offensive linemen

Weighing the talents of offensive linemen was the table-setting Thursday in Indianapolis, as the NFL Combine kicked it up a notch. With representatives from almost every team on-site, there is no disguising the importance of these proceedings for teams and players looking to standout and impress.

However, the NFL Combine event also has become the place where agents, teams, and players on the move come to lay the groundwork for the upcoming trading and free agency player signing periods.

With as many as 17-teams lurking around corner to corner to interview with Iowa's offensive left tackle Robert Gallery. Gallery, potentially a top-five pick in the 2004 NFL Draft has become a favorite of fans and some teams that are seeking that elusive left tackle.

A former tight end, Gallery takes the gathering at the combine in stride and continues to put emphasis on developing as a football player.

"Being here (in Indianapolis) with many of the best college players in the country feels pretty good. This is really the beginning of what will be a busy and long stretch of workouts and interviews from what I understand," Gallery said. "As a player, this is what it is all about. I'll be very busy for next few days with the tests and interviews."

In the early Thursday lifting session, Gallery hoisted the bar an ordinary 25-times in front of the masses of personnel evaluators. Despite the ordinary number of repetitions, Gallery's stock in the early goings of the combine sessions remains in tact.

"Fundamentals, including strength and quickness are all factors in determining which prospects is upper-echelon and what prospects is fringe, depth type players. When evaluating a player, such as Robert Gallery, you need to watch the films to see what he does well and what needs improved upon, like any other prospect," one player personnel evaluator said.

"With Gallery, here is a kid that has grown into the left tackle position and has the athletic ability to play the game at the highest level. He moves his feet well, from the waist down he could be stronger, which getting under a plan at the professional level should take care of, but when you watch him, he has tremendous hip-movement, he is controlled and he knows how to extend and use his arms to minimize leverage from an oncoming defensive lineman. Lifting a bar 24-26 times really is not a concern to us, the kid is in very good shape."

Another offensive lineman that was garnering significant attention was Shawn Andrews of Arkansas. Battling weight and minor medical issues, Andrews has watched his stock waiver leading up to the combine event in recent weeks.

Acknowledging his weight had balloon up over 400-pounds, the personable Andrews offered up some of the training regiment he has followed, since beginning workouts in Arizona about two months ago.

"I have had trouble breathing for some time, and it got worse over the course of last season. It went from being a sinus condition to being some stuff (polyps) in their (nasal passages) that restricts the airflow. Medication helped somewhat, but I am going to have surgery soon to have the problem corrected," Andrews said. "Being in Arizona has helped with the breathing and also has let me focus on getting into very good shape. I have been working out twice a day, almost seven days a week. I am eating better and learning how to workout and eat, I have lost almost 40-pounds and feel as strong as ever."

As one NFL scout said after watching Andrews's workout and briefly discuss his situation, "The kid has all the talent in the world. He is just big and strong, with the ability to blow people up at the line of scrimmage, I have watched him up-close for the past two seasons and he looks as good physically as I have ever seen him."

For many of the players at the NFL Combine, either this is the first or last official time they will be considered serious candidates to play in the National Football League. For Robert Gallery and Shawn Andrews, the road to the NFL just went into high gear.

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