Early Shoppers at Senior Bowl

A few NFL teams hit the pavement early on Saturday to begin the scouting process. The Vikings weren't among the early ones spotted, but we've got a recap of teams we saw taking an interest in certain players.

Senior Bowl week doesn't officially begin until Sunday when the majority of scouts and coaches arrive, but that did not stop a few teams from hitting the pavement early on Saturday. The Vikings aren't expected to have new head coach Brad Childress at the Senior Bowl, but director of college scouting Scott Studwell and some of his college scouts will be there. The Tennessee Titans coaching staff was in town but were not conducting interviews. They have the added advantage, as the coaches of the North Squad, of being able to talk to their team at their leisure and the exposure they receive on the field will bear a lot of weight as they head towards April and the NFL Draft.

Incidentally, the Titans plucked six players off the Senior Bowl roster in 2005.

One section of the Riverview Plaza Hotel is accessible only by players, Senior Bowl staff and the coaching staffs of the Titans and San Francisco 49ers. That secluded room holds pool tables, a pinball machine and other assorted games. It also has plush couches, a television and food – but above all it is a safe haven from the onslaught of questions from NFL scouts.

Two teams staged a stakeout and corralled a number of players to get a jumpstart on the proceedings.

The Miami Dolphins spoke with at least five players, including wide receiver Martin Nance out of Miami (OH), quarterback Darrel Hackney out of UAB and Okalahoma offensive lineman Davin Joseph.

Miami deployed a similar strategy a year ago. They were the first team to on the second floor concourse in 2005 and reclaimed that title on Saturday.

The Dolphins nabbed two players from the Senior Bowl during their 2005 Draft. They selected Matt Roth, a defensive end out of Iowa, with their second-round selection. And, in a touch of irony, Roth was sporting a Miami Dolphins shirt during Senior Bowl week. Miami took Travis Daniels, a cornerback out of LSU, in the fourth round to complete their haul of Senior Bowl prospects last year.

The Chicago Bears talked to at least five players, including Nance and Charles Spencer, an offensive tackle that projects to guard, out of Pittsburgh.

The Bears also took two players from the Senior Bowl a year ago, quarterback Kyle Orton of Purdue and wide receiver Arise Currie from Clemson in rounds four and five, respectively.

With events starting early, the pressure could boil over among the prospects.

"Not at all," said Spencer. "I have been playing football a long time and these guys are out here to watch some talent and I am used to that."

Spencer admits that he had the added benefit of working under Dave Wannstedt at Pitt, a former NFL head coach. Spencer and Wannstedt talk once or twice each day and the coach has his pupil well-prepared for the events.

Expect players to be on top of their game when the real action begins on Sunday. With many of them flying in on Saturday, there were few stragglers still on the concourse of the Riverview when midnight hit.

"I don't think so," North Carolina State defensive end Manny Lawson replied when asked about losing sleep tonight. "I am very tired.

On Sunday, the fast-paced interviews begin in earnest to continue the scouting process.

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