The NFL Scouting Combine starts in earnest on Thursday, with players starting workouts that will last until Tuesday and interviews that will go until Sunday.
The NFL Combine begins Thursday in Indianapolis and every team will be well-represented. In many respects, this is the most important few days of the year.
During the Combine, teams can conduct 60 formal interviews with players that are of interest to them and, perhaps more importantly, their medical staff can poke and prod players to assess potential injury red flags that could make the difference between the team selecting that player or passing on him.
While fans are most interested in things like 40 times, reps of 225 pounds and vertical jumps, the true meaning of the Combine for the 32 NFL teams is to get a feeling on how a player views himself and his NFL career. Much like dating, a good personality goes a long way. Certain players sabotage their own draft stock by coming off as arrogant or aloof. Every year, stories will emerge from the Combine of players that didn't take the process as seriously as they should have or those that give the impression that they are better than they actually are.
It is a cattle call of players that can answer what few questions may remain concerning a given prospect. By this time, all of the scouting staffs have seen plenty of film on players they may have an interest in, and many have already done their due diligence in terms of talking to coaches and school staff about the background of a player. This is the one chance many teams will have to get a personal face-to-face interview with the prospects and, in many cases, that interview will go a long way to determining who a team invests a draft pick in and who gets bypassed.
Viking Update's Tim Yotter, along with other members of Scout.com, will be at the Combine with coverage and analysis. Stay tuned in the coming days to get his reflections as to whose stock may be on the rise and whose may be slipping. The Combine can make a player's career or break it. By this time next week, when the players are done performing, we should know who is moving up boards, who has leveled off and who may be taking a plunge.
While Thursday is the official start of the Combine, it is also the last day that teams can assign franchise or transition tags to players that are set to hit the free agent market.
The Broncos released CB Dre Bly Tuesday, bringing an end to one of the least productive trades in league history. Denver traded running back Tatum Bell and offensive tackle George Foster to Detroit in March 2007 in exchange for Bly. Less than two years later, all three of the players have been released.
Daunte Culpepper agreed to defer a roster bonus scheduled for Feb. 27 in order to stay with the Lions. He restructured his contract that would have called for a $2.5 million bonus and would have triggered a $2.5 million base salary. At this point, despite the Lions being expected to take a QB with the first pick in the draft, Culpepper is expected to end the pre-training camp workout program as the starter.
The Bengals have decided not to place the franchise tag on WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, which could make him the most prized receiver in free agency. Teams believed to be ready to make a run for him include the Eagles, Seahawks, Titans, Ravens, 49ers and Dolphins.
It would appear as though Ray Lewis is going to hit the free agent market. Reports out of Baltimore say that the Ravens are going to franchise Terrell Suggs if they can't reach an extension prior to Thursday.
Faced with the prospect of losing stars like Houshmandzadeh through free agency and with Chad Johnson demanding a trade, they're expected to use their franchise tag on kicker Shayne Graham. Considering how few times the Bengals scored last year, kicker would seem to be the least of their worries when it comes to franchising a player.