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INDIANAPOLIS -- If ever there was confirmation to the idea that the combine has very little to do with the actual workouts, the Monday morning atmosphere in Indy would be it. Defensive players are still going through drills, but virtually all of the media has gone home. Credentials aren’t even issued past Sunday. Player interviews (with the media) are over. Many offensive coaches have left town, as well. And while most coaches are observing the workouts live, it’s not uncommon to see a head coach walking around a hotel lobby during the workouts. You’d think the talent evaluators were watching every precise detail of the events on the field; that’s not the case.
I’m still in town meeting with as many coaches and front office execs as possible. Many of the meetings are previously scheduled, though plenty of times I’ve found myself walking up to someone out of the blue and saying hello. That’s what I did with Jack Del Rio and John Elway as they were heading to Lucas Oil Stadium this morning. This approach can be a hit (Del Rio) or a miss (Elway). It’s nothing personal, just a timing thing.
It’s best to approach these guys near their hotel; the closer they get to the stadium, the more autograph hounds they encounter. The autograph hounds are interesting. A lot of them have stacks of blank white photo papers, which would indicate that the photo part of many autographed photos is actually printed after the signature is acquired. Asking someone for an autograph is a lot like carrying around a superhero-themed lunchbox: it’s great if you’re a little kid and painfully pathetic if you’re a grown man. Sadly, there have been plenty of painfully pathetic grown men running around the Lucas Oil Stadium area these past few days.
Fun as it is to drop a head coach’s name, the best conversations are with assistants and scouts. Most of them aren’t technically allowed to talk to you, though. (That could just be a convenient way to decline a conversation, too.) But plenty of them talk anyway. The primary value of it all is simply laying the groundwork for a future relationship. The secondary value is learning about the game and league from these experts firsthand.
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