There was more than one politician gunning for a big prize in Indianapolis this morning. Hundreds of feet away from Monument Circle, where Republican presidential candidate John McCain was holding a town hall meeting at an Indy radio station, Matt Ryan took the podium at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
Ryan is the Boston College quarterback who is some folks’ candidate to be the top pick in April’s draft. And he had the political polish to dance around some questions, answer others point-blank and schmooze with reporters during a break in his busy day at the NFL Scouting Combine.
For example, "How important is it to be the No. 1 overall pick?" was not a question Ryan was going to take head-on.
"It’s exciting to be mentioned in that light," he said. "For me, I just hope somebody gives me an opportunity to go in and compete and help try and make an organization a winner. It doesn’t really matter what number that is as long as somebody gives me chance."
Good answer. So were his responses about the prospects of being drafted by Miami at No. 1 — "It’d be a great situation for a quarterback, and it may end up working out" — or by Atlanta at No. 3 — "I don’t think one person would be the cause of change down there, but I definitely think I could help. I think I would be a great fit."
But one topic Ryan wasn’t going to finesse was what he’d be doing at the combine. He’ll be doing his timed running drills here but he won’t throw until March 18 at BC’s pro day.
Why not throw in the calm air and room temperatures of the RCA Dome?
"We have a bubble up over our stadium at BC, so we’ve got great conditions to throw on our pro day," Ryan explained. "I want to portray to the teams that are going to be looking at my skills an accurate representation of what it would be like in a game situation, so I want to throw to the guys I know and give the teams a chance to look at what I’m capable of doing."
And for anyone who missed the point he was making, he said a few minutes later: "I’m comfortable with the decisions I’ve made in this process and confident that there’s plenty of game tape that shows that I show up when the games on the line, that I’m a competitor. I’ve made my decision and I’m going to stick with that."
Certainly a well-stated reason for not wanting to do everything desired of him at the combine. NFL coaches and GMs would prefer that everyone invited here would do everything here, but that’s not the way the system has evolved. Some players want the conditions to be close to ideal when they perform before the draft, so as to maximize the offers in their rookie contracts, and they have the potential, the standing — the juice — to do it their way.
Others do not. As far as this year’s quarterbacks, Michigan’s Chad Henne and Delaware’s Joe Flacco, both of whom also talked with the media today, fall into that category.
Henne is in this group because of his injury history. He played with a separated right shoulder virtually all last season, so his game video is not going to be as optimized as Ryan’s.
"I wasn’t healthy throughout the whole year," said Henne. "I’ll work out hard here and try to prove as much as I can. It’s a great opportunity for myself. Hopefully, I can open some scouts’ eyes."
The scouts probably didn’t need to be alerted due to Henne’s pedigree at UM, also known as Tom Brady U. Michigan QBs don’t always come into the NFL with high profiles — Brady, of course, was famously drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 draft — but they seem to turn out pretty well.
"I think we’re very well prepared at Michigan," Henne agreed. "It’s a great place to be, one reason I went to Michigan."
Henne at the moment is considered by draft analysts to be the third QB in this draft, behind Ryan and Louisville’s Brian Brohm, a late-first- or second-rounder. Flacco figures to come in perhaps before, perhaps after Kentucky’s André Woodson in the second or third round, and the reason for that appears to be not health but level of competition. Delaware is in the NCAA Division Championship Subdivision, formerly known as I-AA.
"I guess that’s important because people keep bringing that up," Flacco said, sounding not totally convinced. "But we have good athletes, we play good teams. We made it to the national championship game, which nobody wants to talk about."
Flacco has great size at 6’6" and 236 pounds, and he said the greatest myth about him "is that I can move. … There’s definitely big guys that can move around." In that regard he sounded a little like Vinny Testaverde to me.
But Flacco doesn’t have Testaverde’s résumé of leading the University of Miami in its heyday and winning the Heisman Trophy, so Flacco, unlike Testaverde, will not go No. 1 overall. But the Blue Hen put together an impressive Senior Bowl week and game, and now he’s going to give it his all in this weekend’s physical and mental tests, which could boost his draft stock further still.
Ultimately, everyone does what he feels he has to do at the combine.
Tags: Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, NFL Scouting Combine, Tom Brady
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