Ready, set … combine

Field level at Lucas Oil Stadium.

INDIANAPOLIS — We’re on the eve of the combine, and NFL coaches, scouts, executives, media types and prospects are arriving in a steady stream. Everybody ready for this?

Some initial thoughts after a few hours getting re-acclimated to the combine:

  • The most noticeable difference in downtown Indianapolis — something that will make fans attending the Super Bowl here next year very happy — is the expanded convention center, complete with a skyway system linking downtown hotels to Lucas Oil Stadium. Now you don’t have to go outside unless you want. Cold outside, warm inside, good idea.
  • A conversation I had reminded me of something NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said several weeks ago: Don’t be surprised if Cam Newton comes from the back of the pack and is chosen first overall. At this time last year, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy were the buzz, not Sam Bradford. This year already has the same feeling regarding Newton, who has a lot to show.
  • Sneaking a peek inside the stadium, the bench-press area now has a made-for-TV feel. The four sets of surrounding bleachers where coaches and scouts sit are now just a few feet away from the stage where Cardinals strength and conditioning coach John Lott screams the last few reps out of the prospects. If Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan start cheering like they did during one session last year, the players will probably hear it.
  • I believe I took the bronze medal in the Race to Indy behind Vic Carucci and Gil Brandt. After a four-day layover in Minneapolis in which I was reminded what a blizzard feels like, the connecting flight to Indy felt like it was chartered by the Vikings. Much of the staff was on the same flight, including new additions Bill Musgrave and Mike Singletary. Couldn’t help but notice Singletary was able to meander through Minneapolis International Airport without being bothered.
  • Keep in mind the first group of players to arrive at the combine — kickers, specialists, tight ends and offensive linemen — don’t take the field until Friday (special teams) and Saturday (linemen and TEs). The next two days we’ll focus on the media center, where prospects and team representatives will take the podium throughout the day. We’ll post the schedules for you in the morning.
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