The first-ever NFL Veteran Combine took place on Sunday and while Brady Quinn and Michael Sam received most of the spotlight, several NFL fringe players made positive impressions. Unlike the college combine in Indianapolis, this tryout took place in Tempe, Arizona and had much less hype.
Several former Eagles players such as Ifeanyi Momah, Mike Kafka and Brian Rolle took part in the event. While all three of those players had been out of football this past season, they performed admirably in front of dozens of scouts from all 32 teams.
The Eagles were in full force, as at least a handful of scouts and executives were in attendance along with head coach Chip Kelly. In fact, Kelly was the only head coach I saw at the event. He wasn't the only general manager, as Minnosota's Rick Spielman, Oakland's Reggie McKenzie and Arizona's Steve Keim were also in attendance.
Below are some notes from the combine itself:
- Momah looked pretty good on Sunday. He dropped only one ball the entire day and it was during the gauntlet on a pass thrown just a bit behind him. I spoke with Momah after the tryout about his position switch to tight end and the once-scrawny receiver told me that he is "willing to play any position."
- Rolle looked good as well. He was still the short bulldog we all remember as an Eagles sixth round pick and he believes that he proved that his height didn't make a difference. He spoke to me about how he was surprised that he was cut by the Steelers a few years ago and told me that he has "a lot of fun" when playing inside linebacker in a 3-4. He currently lives in Ohio with his wife and daughter and sells cars.
- Kafka had the strongest day at quarterback in my opinion. He looked poised and put good placement on the ball. I think he has the best shot of any quarterback in Tempe to be in a camp this summer.
- I had a great conversation with former Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, who currently plays for the AFL's Portland Thunder. He came off cheerful and humble and said his Thunder teammate and former Eagles lineman Max Jean-Gilles helped him become a professional. He also playfully told me that he was there for Chip Kelly. He made a fan out of me and could be a decent camp arm.
- The media was not allowed in the training bubble for 40 times, so the unofficial counts were given to us. That said, I spoke with an NFL media representative that said they were using different equipment from the college combine. This likely led to slower initial times, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Charles Robinson.
- I spoke with several people at the combine who said that Michael Sam ran faster than his unofficial run of 5.07. I was told in the range of 4.75-4.94 by those I polled. His media attention wasn't really that big, but probably was three times the size of anyone else at the event.
- While we are talking about 40's, I want to note that every player that I polled (12-14 in total) said that they didn't prepare for the 40 because they wanted to focus on on-field drills. Scouts and other media members seemed to respect those decisions.
- With the lack of interesting stuff going on, many writers were looking for a story to tell. Most spent some time considering Takashi Kurihara, a Japanese semi-pro receiver that had quite the media following at the event. He didn't look that good and had some noticeable drops, but also didn't look out of place either. It will interesting to see if he gets picked up.
- I had several people tell me that the Eagles were thoroughly looking at talent on Sunday. I noticed a couple of brief chats between Eagles scouts and players, but nothing really in-depth. The one conversation that I thought was notable was between a scout and former FAU receiver Lestar Jean. The 6-foot-3, 212-pound pass catcher was out of football last year after an injury forced the Vikings to cut him. He played his first three seasons in Houston.
- Lastly, while I went into the event thinking it was a "public relations" move by the league, I left convinced that some of these guys will get a serious shot at a roster spot. I spoke with scouts, reporters, players and NFL media members that said that teams were interested in a few of these guys. This is a good event for everyone: the media, the players, the agents and the league. Eventually, I think it could be fun for the fans as well.