2014 Combine

LIVE from the 2014 Combine

Posted Feb 20, 2014

Feb. 23 / 1:05 p.m. - Gilbert and Dennard corner the market on good-natured rivalry

Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State are competing for position in the draft, but their rivalry is friendly.

Dennard has a good-natured nickname for Gilbert.

‘He calls me ‘Pretty Boy’  and makes fun of me because I’m taking selfies on my phone,” Gilbert said with a laugh.

Gilbert and Dennard are rated the top cornerbacks in the draft, and Gilbert probably has a slight edge.

Gilbert said his goal is to run the 40-yard sprint in 4.2 seconds, but that’s not likely.

He did promise one thing, though: his 40 time will be faster than Dennard’s.

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 23 / 12:30 p.m. - Timmy Jernigan loves the "nasty" way in which Ndamukong Suh plays the game

Former Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan loves the “nasty” way in which Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh plays the game. Jernigan says Suh is one of the players he looks up to and wants to pattern his game after in the NFL.

The Lions don’t have a real big ned for a defensive tackle with Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley under contract, but Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told beat reporters this week he was going to leave all of his options open.

“I would love it,” Jernigan said of the possibility of playing alongside Suh. “That’d be an honor to be able to play with him, learn from him, definitely could model my game after him. And Fairley as well. Fairley’s a beast, too. I feel like that would be a great combination, Fairley, Suh and Jernigan. That would be nice."

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 23 / 11 a.m. - Kyle Vanden Bosch and South Dakota LB prospect Starr have an Iowa connection

Tyler Starr, a linebacker prospect who played at South Dakota, had Kyle Vanden Bosch as a role model growing up in Little Rock, Iowa.

Vanden Bosch played defensive end for 12 seasons, the last three with the Lions, and was highly regarded at every NFL stop – Cardinals, Titans and Lions – for his work ethic and hustle.

Little Rock had a population of 459 in the 2010 census.

“Slow,” is how Starr described the lifestyle in Little Rock. “We have a gas station, a little café and a little store.”

Vanden Bosch grew up in Inwood Iowa, population 814, and left to play at Nebraska. He was an All-American and a Pro Bowl defensive end.

“My coaches told me stories about him,” Starr said. “We have his jersey hanging up in our locker room.”

Starr is rated a low-round prospect and special-teams candidate because of his quickness and lateral movement.

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 22 / 6:00 p.m. - Former Florida defensive tackle still remembers playing Larry Warford

Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley was asked Saturday who the toughest player he played against in college was.

Without hesitation he said, "The guard from Kentucky." 

He means current Detroit Lions guard Larry Warford.

"Yeah. He's a big guy,” Easley said. “He's wide. He's strong."

Easley faced Warford his sophomore season at Florida when Warford was a junior at Kentucky.

"I told him he was a great player,” Easley said.

Warford, who ended up being a third-round by the Lions last year, had a terrific rookie season in 2013. He's one of the best young guards in the NFL and looks to have a bright NFL future ahead of him.

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 22 / 4:45 p.m. - Max Bullough opens up with teams but silent publicly about Rose Bowl suspension

Michigan State middle linebacker Max Bullough insists he has come clean with NFL teams on what caused the school to suspend him for the Rose Bowl, but he will not discuss the incident publicly.

The suspension was announced by MSU Coach Mark D’Antonio before the Rose Bowl, but the violation that caused it has not been made public.

Michigan State beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, 24-20. Kyler Elsworth, filling in for Bullough at middle linebacker, made a diving tackle on a fourth-down play to stop Stanford and clinch the victory.

“That’s a situation I’m not discussing right now,” Bullough said. “It’s a personal issue. I’m moving forward. I made a mistake. I let down my teammates. I let down my coaches. I let down my family.

“I’ve talked to all the NFL teams. They all know the issue.”

Bullough worked out in Southern California in the lead-up to the Rose Bowl. He watched the game on television in Pasadena and was at the team hotel to take part in the victory celebration.

“At the end of the day, I was proud of them,” Bullough said.

He did not want to be the focus of the game, Bullough said.

“The Rose Bowl was about Michigan State, the program and the history behind it and the tradition we were trying to bring back,” he said.

“After the game (celebrating), that wasn’t hard at all. It was great. It was one of the best times of my life, being in that hotel with those guys.”

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 22 / 3:55 p.m. - Michael Sam wants his story to be about football but understands questions about him being gay

Michael Sam, the defensive end from Missouri who recently announced that he is gay, knew questions about it were coming, so he started his press conference  Saturday with a statement, as follows:

“Good afternoon. My name is Michael Sam. I play football for the University of Missouri. As you man know, Missouri is the ‘Show Me’ state, and you’d think I’d have shown you guys enough these last couple of weeks.

“But I’m learning with the media, you guys still want more, so ask your questions and I’ll answer them to the best I can.”

After that, Sam answered questions for about 15 minutes before one of the largest Combine media crowds ever.

There was a mix of questions about what he has faced since announcing that he is gay, his performance at Missouri and how he has been accepted, and where he might fit an NFL team’s defense as either a defensive end in a 4-3 alignment or possibly an outside linebacker in a 3-4.

“I can drop back in coverage as well,” Sam said about possibly switching to linebacker. “My specialty is rushing the passer.”

Sam got a laugh with his answer when asked why he was inconsistent in sacking the quarterback, getting them in bunches.

“Winning is hard, buddy,” he said.

At about 6-1 and 260 pounds, Sam is shorter than most defensive ends. GM Martin Mayhew said the Lions will rate Sam the same as they would any other player, but their profile for defensive ends is for taller players with rangier frames.

Sam made it clear that wants to be evaluated Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player. Sam seemed a little nervous at the start of his press conference but no more than most young athletes facing a barrage of questions.

There have been reports that Sam has gotten numerous endorsement offers, but he said he hasn’t accepted any.

He would prefer that being gay was not the focus of his story, Sam said.

“Well heck yeah,” Sam said. “I wish you guys would just say, ‘Michael Sam, how’s football going? How’s training going?’ I would love for you to ask me that question. But it is what it is.

“And I wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam, the gay football player.”

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 22 / 2:10 p.m. - Jadeveon Clowney to make his case to be No. 1 overall pick

Everyone saw what the Seattle Seahawks defense did to the Denver Broncos defense in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks’ defense completed dominated the high-powered Broncos offense to the tune of a 48-9 drubbing.

Jadeveon Clowney took notice, too.

The former South Carolina defensive end was asked Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine why he thought he should be selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans over some of the quarterback prospects.

“You watched the Super Bowl," Clowney said. "Defense wins championships, hands down. Seattle proved that.”

Clowney measured in at 6-foot-5, 266 pounds with 10-inch hands and a 83-inch wing span.

"I want to be one of the best," Clowney said. "I want to be one of the greatest of all time.''

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 22 / 1 p.m. - Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald looking to make his mark

Defensive tackle Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh might be undersized for the Lions’ profile for the position, but he’s a first-round candidate. The Lions won’t be looking to draft a defensive tackle that high.

Donald has played nose tackle at Pittsburgh, but he prefers the three technique, which puts him in the gap and allows him to utilize his quickness. Donald is scheduled to be timed in the 40 on Monday, and he wouldn’t predict a time when asked Saturday about his goal.

“We’ll see on Monday,” he said.

It’s not surprising that his favorite defensive tackle is the Bengals’ Geno Atkins. Atkins, who missed much of the 2013 season after being injured in a victory over the Lions at Ford Field, has used his quickness to become one of the NFL’s most productive interior linemen.

“I like the way he plays,” Donald said. “Explosive. He makes a ton of plays.”

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 22 / 11:55 a.m. - Fast track for offensive linemen at the Combine this year

The Detroit Lions aren’t necessarily in the market for an offensive tackle with Riley Rieff, LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard under contract, but if they were, they would have taken notice of former Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan’s workout onof some of the terrific workouts by a few of the top tackle prospects on Saturday.

Michigan's Taylor Lewan measured in at 6-7 ½ and 309 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.88 seconds on his first attempt and 4.85 on his second.

His 10-yard slit, which is a better representation of quickness and athleticism for offensive lineman, was a 1.64.

Lewan is considered one of the top five tackles available in the draft and a likely first-round pick.

Auburn’s Greg Robinson, who's considered a top 10 pick, measured in at 6-5 and 332 pounds and ran the 40 in 4.88 and 4.84 with a 10-yard split of 1.68.

Those are impressive numbers for a man his size.

Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, who some consider the top tackle prospect available, measured in at 6-5, 308 pounds and ran 5.0 and 4.91 in the 40.

It’s a fast track for some of the top offensive tackles in the draft this year.

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 21 / 5:00 p.m. - Rabbits are good eating for FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin

Former Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin is physically imposing at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds with only four percent body fat on him.

If he runs the 40-yard dash in sub-4.5 seconds on Sunday, he'll impress a lot of general managers, coaches and scouts here in Indianapolis.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Benjamin said he developed some of his quickness by chasing rabbits in the cane fields of Pahokee, Florida.

"Everybody chased rabbits back in the day, when you was small," Benjamin said. "I mean, they was good to eat. They really good if you never had them before."

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 21 / 12:50 p.m. - Johnny Football self-confident in front of huge Combine media crowd

Johnny Manziel’s Combine media session showed a lot of the qualities that made him a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Texas A&M.

Manziel was self-assured and confident in how he delivered the message about how he played in college and what he expects to accomplish in the pros.

Manziel made it plain that he would like the Houston Texans to draft him first overall, but he wasn’t as brash as in a recent interview when he said the Texans would make their biggest mistake ever if they did not draft him.

“I’m a Texas guy, born and raised,” Manziel said. “I’ve never really left the state.”

He has left Texas to prepare for the draft, though. Manziel has been training in San Diego for the last six weeks.

Manziel talked about his competitive nature.

“I’m probably one of the most competitive players on the face of the earth,” Manziel said. “I’m a very competitive person. I want to be a great leader as well.

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 21 / 12:10 p.m. - Lions could look at QB later in draft

Shaun Hill has been one of the best backups in the NFL over the last few seasons, but he’s 34 years old and an unrestricted free agent.

It’s certainly possible the Lions could look to the draft or free agency to find Matthew Stafford’s new backup in 2014.

“That’s still kind of defining itself, and we’ll get into the free agency market and see what it looks like and see if there’s a veteran out there that’s right for us that we feel comfortable with,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "And if not, then we’ll go into the draft.”

Kellen Moore is entering his third season with the Lions after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2012, but he’s never played in a regular-season game.

“I haven’t seen enough of him in actual games to say that you just role with him and you feel great about it,” Mayhew said of Moore. “The idea of signing a veteran is appealing to us. However, he’s done a lot of things in practice that makes you feel like he’s very capable, so that’s kind of an open situation right now. We’ll get into free agency and see how free agency goes, and if we find the right guy at the right value, we’ll make a move there.”

Mayhew didn't close the door on Hill returning, either.

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 21 / 10:40 a.m. - Packers facing change with 2 new coaching staffs in NFC North

Change has come to the NFC North, but whether it will end the Packers’ dominance of the division has to be proven.

The Lions and Vikings have changed head coaches since the end of last season. Only the Packers and Bears remained intact.

For Packers Coach Mike McCarthy, whose teams have made the playoffs five straight years and have won the division title the last three years, there will be time to adjust to new schemes because of the way the NFL schedule has been laid out in recent years.

“We’ll go about it as we normally do,” McCarthy said. “We have a week that we dedicate to each division opponent. Divisions games do come a little later.”

Division games coming later give coaching staffs an opportunity to look at tendencies in formulating game plans.

Last year, only one of the Packers’ first six games was against a division opponent. The Packers beat the Lions at home in Game 4. Three of the last six games were in the division – a tie with Minnesota, a loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day and a victory at Chicago in the final game in a showdown for the NFC title and a playoff berth.

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 21 / 9:50 a.m. - Kicking prospect Boswell knows kickalicious, Hanson, and has tricks of his own

Christopher Boswell of Rice is rated at the top of the draft’s kicking prospects, but he hasn’t scouted rosters to figure where he might end up.

For style and longevity, he’s well aware of the kicking history of the Lions.

Norwegian kicker Havard Rugland, better known as Kickalicious, made his impression with the trick kicks that were a You Tube sensation.

Jason Hanson, who retired before the 2013 season after 21 seasons – all with the Lions – made a lasting mark for longevity and consistent excellence.

Rugland was in training camp with the Lions last year and was released in one of the final cuts. He returned from Norway late in the season for a tryout when David Akers was struggling with accuracy. Rugland apparently did not make much of an impression in his tryout.

“I’ve heard about him,” Boswell said. “The You Tube video he made was awesome. To pull off those kicks is awesome.”

Boswell is more aware of Hanson for his high level of production.

“One of the longest kickers in history – 22 seasons, 23?” Boswell said. “That is a dream career.”

In his senior year at Rice, Boswell showed that he had a trick up his sleeves. Better yet, up his socks.

He perfected a technique on onside kicks that he used successfully in Rice’s early season loss to Houston.

Boswell is left-footed, but he kicked the ball with his right foot by swinging right leg around the left. It caught Houston flat-footed.

Boswell worked on it in practice. Houston’s coaching staff like it and used it in a game.

“A lot of soccer players can do it,” he said. “It’s not anything I invented. I was just kind of messing around with it in practice. We were just trying to find ways to trick teams. We put the ball on the tee and that happened. We started working on it from there.

“I had to show my special teams coach. From the first moment he saw it he really liked it. We kind of started working on it in practice and got the time to kick it in a game against Houston.”

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 21 / 9:30 a.m. - Mayhew wants new contract for TE Brandon Pettigrew

Mayhew told beat writers this morning one of his priorities this offseason is to sign tight end Brandon Pettigrew to a new contract.

"We had our free agency meetings. Our coaches liked him, liked what he could do, being an all-around sort of guy," Mayhew said. "So he's a guy that we'll be talking to and meeting with his agent down here at the combine."

Mayhew also didn't rule out the possibility of using the franchise tag to keep Pettigrew at a cost of around $6.8 million.

"Never say never," Mayhew said of franchising Pettigrew. "You never know how things are going to go. If we chose to do that, we could create the room to make that happen."

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 20 / 4:30 p.m. - Michigan’s Long, and its long history of offensive linemen, benefit Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan admits that he played hard and tough on Michigan’s offensive line. If he were a coach, he’d want his players to do the same.

“I like to play through the whistle and put people in the dirt as much as possible,” Lewan said. “If I was a coach, I’d want my players to play through the whistle every single time.”

Some opponents felt Lewan played outside the rules at times, but that has not hurt his draft stock. Lewan is rated one of the top three tackles in this year’s draft, behind Jake Matthews of Texas A&M and Greg Robinson of Auburn.

Lewan could have entered the NFL draft in 2013, but he chose to stay at Michigan for a fifth year in the hopes of winning a Big Ten championship. That didn’t work out. The Wolverines we 3-5 in the conference and 7-6 overall, including a 31-14 bowl-game loss to Kansas State.

Lewan said he had no regrets over staying an extra year. He’s proud to be a part of Michigan’s strong lineage of offensive linemen. Such players as Jon Jansen, Jeff Backus and Jake Long have preceded Lewan to the NFL.

Long, drafted first overall by the Dolphins in 2008, is the offensive lineman Lewan says he has tried most to emulate. Long has reached out to him to offer help in making the transition to the NFL.

“If I had to pick one, it would be Jake Long,” Lewan said. “He texted me and called me the minute my bowl game ended.”

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 20 / 2:45 p.m. - Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins lost 20 pounds and says he's not a character risk

The Lions could be on the lookout for tight end this offseason with Brandon Pettigrew being an unrestricted free agent.

North Carolina's Eric Ebron is considered the best prospect in the class, and could be a top 10 pick, but close behind is Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who won the 2013 John Mackey Award awarded annually to the most outstanding tight end.

Seferian-Jenkins might be the most complete tight end in the group.

He's an above-average blocker and caught 33 passes for 413 yards and seven touchdowns last year in a run-happy Washington offense.

He's lost 20 pounds from his playing weight last year in hopes of proving to NFL teams this weekend he's a down-field threat at 6-foot-5, 262 pounds.

He totaled 143 receptions for 1,801 yards and 20 touchdowns over his college career.

Outside the numbers, he'll also have to prove he's not a character risk after being arrested for a DUI last year.

He's a former basketball player turned tight end and his versatility will be coveted if he has a good workout this weekend.

"Now you see a lot more with offenses how the NFL has changed," he said of the position. "(Tight ends) split out and are in the slot more so the value has changed because the tight ends have been asked to do more."

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 20 / 12:50 p.m. - 'Champion' - not 'Elite' - is the label Caldwell wants for Stafford

Lions coach Jim Caldwell isn't putting any labels Matthew Stafford that are easy to apply to quarterbacks and hard to erase.

What Caldwell wants is a quarterback who can lead a team to a championship, and he thinks he has that in Stafford.

"A lot of people want to talk about so many other things that really aren't important, whether he's 'elite' or this or that," Caldwell said Thursday. "That doesn't matter. We want a championship quarterback is what we're looking for. I think we have the makings of that.

"I think you're going to see Matthew take the bull by the horns and do all the things that are necessary to keep us moving forward as a team.

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 20 / 12:40 p.m. - Caldwell admits Megatron needs help

Calvin Johnson can't do it all and head coach Jim Caldwell knows it.

Caldwell admitted getting Megatron some help at receiver is an important need this offseason.

"I think it's something, obviously, we have to take a very strong look at," Caldwell said during his noon press conference at the Combine. "Because of the fact that he's the one that's going to draw a little extra attention in terms of double coverage like he's always done.

"With that being the case we have to make certain that whoever is on the other side that may be getting singled in some situations can do some damage against defenders. I think that's extremely important."

This year's draft class of receivers is very deep and the Lions should be able to find an immediate contributor in the first days.

They could very well find him at No. 10.

"I think that's something we're obviously taking a good, hard look and one way or another we're going to come up with a guy that'll give us some balance in that area," he said.

-- Tim Twentyman

Feb. 20 / 11:30 a.m. - Doug Marrone on why he hired Jim Schwartz

Competitive expereince helped Jim Schwartz get Buffalo D-Coordinator Job

New Bills head coach Doug Marrone acted quickly and relied on personal experience when he hired Schwartz as defensive coordinator after Mike Pettine departed for Cleveland as head coach of the Browns.

Marrone and Schwartz previously were on the Titans’ staff together – Marrone on offense, Schwartz on defense – and competed in practice. Marrone also went against Schwartz in games when they were on opposing teams.

"I say to myself, 'Who did I not like going against,'" Marrone said, explaining how he locked on to Schwartz. "’Who was tough to game plan against?’

"I think it’s a great fit – a great move for our organization."

-- Mike O’Hara

Feb. 20 / 11:00 a.m. - Steelers GM talks Louis Delmas

Safety Louis Delmas, cut a week ago by the Lions, could find a new home with the Steelers after a good visit with the team’s front office.

"It was a look-see," said Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. "We liked him."

Colbert spent a decade as a key member of the Lions’ front office before going to Pittsburgh in 2000 to head their personnel department.

The Steelers had their eye on Delmas in the 2009 draft, when the Lions took him at the top of the second round out of Western Michigan. Colbert liked him then, and still does.

"That’s why we brought him in right away."

Knee issues have been a problem for Delmas in recent years. He played all 16 games in 2013, but his practice time was limited because of the knee problems.

-- Mike O'Hara

Feb. 20 / 10:30 a.m. - Bears looking to get young on defense

Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman told the media a few minutes ago that his biggest task this offseason is "rebuilding the defense."

The Bears lost LB Brian Urlacher last offseason and could lose DE Julius Peppers, CB Charles Tillman and possibly LB Lance Briggs this offseason.

The Bears will look much different in 2014 and Trestman said the Bears will build a scheme around the young players they acquire.

The Bears' goal this offseason is to build a new defense to a "stature that is expected of us." The Bears ranked 30th in total defense in 2013.

-- Tim Twentyman