Mack proved his worth at Senior Bowl

Cal center Alex Mack could be a first-round pick in April's draft (and holds value near the Vikings' No. 22 pick). While he isn't expected to work out this week at the NFL Scouting Combine because of an injury, his skills showed well during a week of work at the Senior Bowl. See what Mack told Viking Update about his Senior Bowl week and the interview process.

According to published reports, Cal center Alex Mack is not going to work out this weekend at the NFL Scouting Combine because of an ankle injury.

As far as the Vikings are concerned, that's too bad, as the team is expected to be in the market for either a free-agent center or one through a high draft pick, and Mack is probably the best the rookie centers have to offer. He is the top-rated center on's rankings and the No. 31 player overall.

Mack looked solid during Senior Bowl practices last month, and his confidence showed in an interview with Viking Update after one of those sessions. The day after he interviewed with the Vikings, he laid out his goals for his Senior Bowl week.

"To show that I can play as well as I always have against good opponents," he said. "We had some really good D-linemen coming out here this week and they've shown us a good look. It's playing new positions – I'm playing guard, trying to be versatile – and just trying to show I can play football against good guys."

Mack figured that showing his personality and work ethic were the most important aspects for him to accentuate during his interviews with the Vikings and other teams.

"Just that I'm a personable guy that wants to work and wants to play football," he said of the image he tried to portray in those team interviews. "I love playing football. I want to play it as long as I can. I assume – I'm not them – but if you're going to bring a guy on your team, you want a guy that's going to get along with your guys, work hard and make your team better. I think I can do that."

Of course, the Vikings already had that guy on their team for the last decade in Matt Birk, but they aren't expected to re-sign him, instead letting him hit the free-agent market as one of the top-rated veteran centers when free agency opens on Feb. 27.

Mack, meanwhile, seemingly struggled at the Senior Bowl only when he was asked to move away from his natural center position and get some exposure at guard.

"I'm struggling a little bit with that inside move. I messed up … on a one-on-one pass rush, but it's been fun doing different things and learning. Every day I felt myself get better. That's always real fulfilling," he said.

At the Senior Bowl, each team of college all-stars is led by an NFL coaching staff. Oftentimes, those coaches will put the players in various positions or in different situations just to see how they perform in an unfamiliar environment.

Although Mack was tested occasionally at guard, he said the NFL scouts and coaches he talked with project him almost exclusively as a center.

"That's what I played in college. I have five years of center game tape and none at guard," he said.

But, getting back to his main goal at the Senior Bowl – proving he can handle the top players from the college game – he got one of the best tests he could from one of the top-rated defensive tackle prospects in the draft. Without hesitation, he named Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji as his toughest competition during Senior Bowl week.

"He's a powerful guy. I think I did OK. He's a tough guy to handle when he's on shade. And trying to cut him off, it's a tough block," Mack said. "He's got a lot of power going forward and I'm just trying to divert that power, but it's been fun and I think I've done a pretty good job."

So did those who observed his week of work.

Now, because of an ankle injury suffered in recent weeks, he will have to rely on his pro day and private workouts in March and April to further display his physical skills. Combine week for him will be limited to medical tests and interviews with teams and the media.

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