INDIANAPOLIS -- You don't come to the NFL Combine looking for answers. Everyone should know this by now. Coaches and general managers have little to say when they're marched to the podium for their forced media availability. Prospective NFL players have spent month practicing empty responses to a rote series of questions they'll face during their media availability.
One tape recorder toting beat writer from a Rust Belt daily asked the Millennial across the table, nestled behind a MacBook what exactly "this Facebook stuff" meant, cognizant that whatever answer he got would be unsatisfactory. Even the lunch line failed to provide the sustenance of a flaccid turkey sandwich for the hundreds of huddled masses from scribe caste unable to shove their way through the first mad moments of the lunch line.
Look hard enough, probe like an overeager spaceman, interpret the language of talking points and a few cubic zirconia and some iron pyrite are bound to surface.
Here's our favorite cheap jewelry from the first day of the 2015 Combine.
NFL types are a tightly wound bunch. Gary Kubiak only used the word process five times during his 15 minutes at the podium, but it felt like that's the only thing he said. The Broncos coach was specifically referring to whether or not Peyton Manning will be back this season. John Elway is handling that. So what exactly are the Broncos and Manning are going through right now, what does "the process" consist of?
"I think it's just time," he revealed. "It's the offseason. He just got through with the season. Peyton needed time to assess his situation, his health -- those types of things. John has a lot of things on his plate too, so I think it's just the NFL offseason I guess."
Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey is a big process guy too when it comes to his players.
"We're going through that process. We're further along in that process, and we're still working through it," Hickey said of contract talks with Ryan Tannehill.
Asked about his dialog with perpetually disgruntled receiver Mike Wallace, Hickey again cited his process.
"We're going through that process. We're further along in that process than we were a month ago," he said.
Joe Flacco is definitely elite
A tip of the hat to PFT Commenter, who got his PhD in the subject of elite chalky players with sneaky athleticism. When Kubiak, Flacco's offensive coordinator last season in Baltimore, took the podium, I had to ask on behalf of my esteemed colleague.
"Is Joe Flacco elite? You bet he is. That's why I'm standing up here today. Joe is tremendous. I really enjoyed working with him ... as talented a young man I've ever coached and he's as good a person as I've ever coached and I think we'll be talking about Joe for a long, long time. So I really appreciated my time with him and I wish him the best."
I asked Ravens head coach John Harbaugh the same question.
"Of course he is ... best quarterback in football."
A jovial Harbs then turned the tables on me. But I was ready.
"Why is that such a trigger point," he asked.
Short answer: Embrace debate!
Best media session
It's got to be John Harbaugh. Not only did he confirm Joe Flacco's eliteness, he shared some handy tips for giving stuff up for Lent. He's going to pass on chocolate and bread. (Has any one organization done more Atkins than the Vatican?)
But there's a catch. He's not really giving up all bread. For instance, breaded fish and whatnot.
Remember that the next time he's complaining about Bill Belichick exploiting a loophole in the rule book.
Lunch pail player of the day
The majority of answers delivered by players at the Combine are of the one-word variety. In fairness, most of the questions they get are pretty dumb (one more kicker got asked three times on Wednesday what he weighed in at ... a kicker).
Florida State tight end Nick O'Leary livened up the terrible player press conference with a brusque veneer. He was clearly annoyed with the whole thing. Of course, he did have to answer a series of questions about his relationship with golf legend Jack Nicklas, his grandfather.
"We talk a lot," he replied to the expected question.
The high effort, deceptively fast tight end then revealed his blue collar roots.
When asked if he ever thought about playing golf instead, O'Leary responded: "I love football. I love contact."