Sights, sounds of a hushed, post-XLVI Indy

A tight end performs the three-cone drill Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

INDIANAPOLIS — The uproar of Super Bowl XLVI has faded. Silence now drapes the back streets of a city that just three weeks ago threatened to burst at the seams.

This week’s NFL Scouting Combine, in that sense, has the feel of a private after-party. That committed, close-knit circle gathered in the living room, fending off the hangover.

Activities here mainly are limited to Lucas Oil Stadium and the adjacent Indiana Convention Center, save for the nightly fraternizing between coaches, scouts and yesterday’s heroes at St. Elmo Steak House and inside the darkened taverns and hotel bars that dot downtown.

This remains a business trip for 32 NFL teams. A quick walk Saturday revealed that even the vendors inside the Convention Center vibe in-house activity: Hammer Strength and Power Lift have carved out space to peddle hulking gym equipment to the league’s strength and conditioning coaches. Another room is packed with tackling dummies.

These rooms are closed off to the public, but the public was hovering just down the way, where the roped-off edges of the Convention Center end, giving way to a horde of waiting fans. I continued into this open space to find men, women and youth wrapped around Titans coach Mike Munchak, who patiently signed footballs, photos, notebooks.

By the wall, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen huddled with Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff.

Passing by, a massive, middle-aged dude — clearly a former player — advised a prospect: “That’s what you gotta do, brother, separate business — from the game.”

Beyond them, a young man in a suit sat alone on a bench. “I’m looking for an internship,” he said, hoping to meet with passing coaches and scouts for even a minute. Perhaps the next Mike Tannenbaum, if anyone will give a listen.

Devon Still was about to take the stage, I learned from a text. Time to go. I cut outside, where a terrible wind whipped shirt collars and notebook pages in every direction. Impatient for the light to turn, I jaywalked across South Street onto the grounds of Lucas Oil — back into a haven of warm lights and gratis, room-temperature sodas.

– Marc Sessler

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