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Which coach deflected roster questions the best? Which GM brushed aside trade talk with aplomb? Which player put the Combine in perspective? A look back at the first day in Indianapolis.
INDIANAPOLIS - The sun set on a rich and full opening day at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. Coaches and general managers dominated most of the day's media sessions, doling out sawdust-filled talking points about trades and free agents. A parade of offensive linemen, kickers, punters and a stray tight end or two also took turns at the podium reciting their height and weight and answering questions.
Most notable takeaway - Don't ask about free agents
Every general manager fielded a question or two about free agents or players that might be traded. I suppose those questions have to be asked, but the answers are always the same: a roundabout no comment.
Jets general manager John Idzik got his official welcome to the rarified air of front office executives with a torrent of Darrelle Revis questions. He spent the first 11 minutes of his 15 minute press conference issuing the same answer about the prospects for trading the star cornerback. Hint: he's not saying.
How notable is that? The man has Tim Tebow on his roster, and America's most popular backup quarterback didn't even get a mention. Even more curious, ESPN was at the event.
Andy Reid gets points for taking the non-answer answer to new heights, a skill honed by more than a decade in Philadelphia no doubt. Here is when asked about trading for Nick Foles:
"He's not available. You just had Howie (Roseman) up here, so I think you know that. I'm glad you asked the question. I miss that. Listen, Nick is the property of the Philadelphia Eagles, and I think they like him."
Second-most notable takeaway - The NFC West is no joke
Laughed off most seasons, the NFC West is kind of legit these days. After all, the division sent two teams to the playoffs, one all the way to the Super Bowl. The new guy on the beat, Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is well aware of the division's changing landscape.
"We are in a division with two really good young quarterbacks," Arians said of Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. "They have good defenses too. St. Louis, Jeff is doing a fantastic job. It's an outstanding division. Reminds me of the AFC North, the way the teams are running the football and playing defense. Each division is extremely difficult but right now the West is really tough."
San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke isn't sleeping on the fact that his team won the division and went to the Super Bowl.
"We're going to have to go back to work," Baalke said. "It's an awfully good division."
Anecdote of the day
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier was not at the Combine, not physically anyway. Had he been on hand, gong through the drills like his former tight end Justice Cunningham, he probably would have been able to hold his own. Cunningham revealed which drill Spurrier would own:
"Spurrier would probably get down on the shuttles a little bit."
Oh, he also made his tight end do some unusual running of his own.
"As far as running routes, I had to run a lot of receiver route, 10-, 12- and 20-yards deep," Cunningham said.
"Because Spurrier says so. If you can't do it, he's going to find someone who can."
Best Combine insight
We experienced two real moments of clarity on Thursday at the Combine. The first came from Cunningham, the Gamecocks tight end that predicted Steve Spurrier's dominance in the shuttle run.
The biggest surprise of the whole thing so far?
"Probably that we haven't done anything yet," Cunningham said. "There's a lot of standing around."
The youth weren't the only ones sharing their insights into the testing process. San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke and his team didn't get to the big game by standing around watching twentysomethings in their underwear.
"The height, the weight, the speed, the combine is nice -- it's a part of the picture, but it's a small part of the picture," Baalke said.
Hm, guess we know why the Niners had to settle for second-best.
Best player appearance
Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long fired bullets, deadly shots of comedy mixed in with some real levity during his time in front of the microphone.
Long opened his session praising the blinding orange jumpsuits handed out to the offensive linemen. The orange reminded him of hunting. He stood on the podium in a pair of shoes borrowed from Oregon and provided by "uncle Phil Knight."
The standard opening question for awkward reporters is asking a player his measurements (only at the Combine is that not weird). Long had not committed his official digits to memory.
"I'm sure they're written down somewhere."
He gave his NFL brother Chris the edge when it comes to social media, not to mention high-brow education:
"Chris is a little smarter. He went to Virginia, so he's kind of a nerd. After being at the University of Oregon for a year, I feel I have the ability to express myself in social media."
It wasn't all dry jokes with the younger Long. He went on to talk about his battle with addiction, cleaning himself up and getting back into football after his aborted baseball career at Florida State (more on that to come).
Best coach/GM appearance
We're going back to Oregon for this one, giving the nod to former Ducks head coach Chip Kelly, now at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The college folks here at SB Nation are versed in Kelly's monosyllabic press conferences.
For the rest of us, this is how it works: A reporter fires off a query, and because this is the Combine, it's probably a something from a fairly simple playbook, probably one that's been asked before. Kelly responds tersely, without expression. If your question annoys him, his glare sends a pulse of fear through the questioner and the lameness thrown at this this busy, busy man. If he tolerates your question, the stare is uncomfortable, but tolerable.
A sampling. Here's Kelly's response when asked what he plans to do with four quarterbacks on the roster:
"I'm not a predictor of how it's going to work, and I've never had an opportunity to work with 'em."
Translation (while glaring): OF COURSE I'M NOT GOING TO HAVE FOUR QUARTERBACKS ON THE ROSTER THIS SEASON. THAT'S WHY WE HAVE TRAINING CAMP. IDIOT. BE THANKFUL I DON'T REMOVE YOUR TONGUE SO THAT YOU CAN NEVER ASK ANYONE ELSE SUCH A TERRIBLE QUESTION.
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