Still believes he’s cream of defensive tackle crop

INDIANAPOLIS — He’s not the first guy to say this about himself, but Devon Still believes he’s the very best at what he does.

The Penn State defensive tackle closed the book on a sensational senior season (the All-American was named Big Ten Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year) and now looks ahead to the draft, where he’s widely projected to go in the first round.

Still wants teams to know that whoever takes the chance on him will gain an elite player.

“I think hands down, I’m the best defensive tackle in this draft,” Still told reporters Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Just because I feel there’s no doubt I want it more, and I was able to take over a lot of games this season, and just the production that I had, I was able to disrupt plays even if I wasn’t making statistics.”

Still battled back from two season-ending injuries — he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in 2007 and broke his left ankle in 2008 — and he grew emotional Saturday while describing the loyalty of his college D-line coach, Larry Johnson. Still credited Johnson with sticking by him when a lesser man might have seen him as a lost cause.

Still, of course, will be asked at this combine about his experience during Penn State’s meltdown amid scandal, and the subsequent death of icon Joe Paterno. He doesn’t mind the questions.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a lot of those … and I’m ready to answer them,” Still said, adding that the experience taught him to battle through adversity and produce, something he appears ready to do at the next level.

– Marc Sessler

Crennel: Chiefs would be ‘crazy’ not to consider Manning

INDIANAPOLIS — Romeo Crennel could have said Peyton Manning is a great talent, but the Chiefs are set at quarterback.

Instead, the coach’s Saturday statement that he would be “crazy” not to consider acquiring Manning, were he to become available, raised eyebrows, in light of a recent report that Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and the Colts QB’s agent have spoken twice.

Crennel actually said: “I’m not supposed to talk about anybody else’s players, and he’s still a player with Indianapolis. But with a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it, if he were available. So I’ll leave it at that.”

That quote certainly is worth noting. But for now, Matt Cassel can rest easy… that is unless the Chiefs re-sign free-agent QB Kyle Orton, whom Crennel also spoke fondly of at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“If it were not for Kyle, I would not be standing here either, so I’m very appreciative of what he’s done,” Crennel said, referring to Orton’s late-season heroics that made the interim coach the full-time guy. “But until we get another quarterback on the team, Cassel is the guy. Now, if we get Kyle on the team — if he comes back to us — then we’ll see how it works out and we’ll play the best guy.”

That “best guy” also could end up being Robert Griffin III. Though the Chiefs, who pick 11th overall, likely would have to maneuver up the draft board to pick RGIII, Crennel said his Friday night meeting with the Baylor QB “went very well.”

“You only have 15 minutes to talk to guys (in combine interviews), and that goes pretty quickly when you’re talking to the entertaining man like he is,” Crennel said. “He is very sharp, he’s well thought-out. He gives great answers. We could have talked to him for an hour, you know, but in the 15 minutes that we had, we came away very impressed with him.”

– Aron Angel

Irvin: Impressive workouts reaffirm tight ends’ value in NFL

Editor’s note: Michael Irvin, a Hall of Fame receiver and an NFL Network analyst, watched all the tight ends work out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine and shares his thoughts.

INDIANAPOLIS — This might come as a surprise to you, but I’m going to say it anyway: In my opinion, tight ends are the most incredibly gifted and talented athletes on the football field.

There’s no fat on these guys, and to be 250, 260 pounds and have 4.49 speed is incredible.

Think about what tight ends are expected to do in today’s NFL — having to be good in the run game and pass game, having to understand both schemes, having to be good at catching like a receiver.

See, back in the day, you had your big receiver and your fast receiver, your blocking tight end and your receiving tight end. Now teams are looking for that guy to be Rob Gronkowski, because the salary cap dictates that you can’t pay for all of those guys individually.

Why do I bring this up? Because the tight ends who worked out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine showed that this league is going to continue down that path. These guys were incredible.

I thought Clemson’s Dwayne Allen, Oklahoma’s James Hanna and Missouri’s Michael Egnew really cemented themselves as being more than capable to play in the NFL. Their numbers in the drills were phenomenal, and both of them did a good job catching passes.

And then, of course, there was Georgia’s Orson Charles. Man, can this kid play. But I’ll tell you what, forget his physical gifts. This kid showed me something else.

This game is too hard not to have guys like Charles on your team. Because when you play in this league, and it hurts, and you’ve got problems at home, and you’re feeling down, you need somebody who is going to pick you up. Charles was doing that all day in his group. He was the one revving those guys up, motivating them to go hard.

It was really special to see that up close.

All in all, I’ve got to say it was a good day for the tight ends.

– Michael Irvin

Official three-cone drill, shuttle results: Tight ends

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are the leading three-cone drill and 20- and 60-yard shuttle results for tight ends who worked out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Northwestern TE Drake Dunsmore runs the three-cone drill Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

Top 5 in three-cone drill
Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern: 6.73 seconds
James Hanna, Oklahoma: 6.76
Evan Rodriguez, Temple: 6.94
Michael Egnew, Missouri: 7.03
Dwayne Allen, Clemson: 7.12

Top 5 in 20-yard shuttle
Dunsmore: 4.03 seconds
Hanna: 4.11
Rodriguez: 4.28
Egnew: 4.32
Allen: 4.37

Top 5 in 60-yard shuttle
Hanna: 11.43 seconds
Rodriguez: 11.43
Dunsmore: 11.47
Emil Igwenagu, Massachussetts: 11.5
David Paulson, Oregon: 11.9

Stay on top of all the results with NFL.com’s combine tracker.

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

Official three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle results: O-linemen

SMU's Josh LeRibeus runs the three-cone drill Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are the leading three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle results for offensive linemen who worked out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Top 5 in three-cone drill
David DeCastro, Stanford: 7.3 seconds
Matt Kalil, USC: 7.33
Brandon Mosley, Auburn: 7.43
Taylor Dever, Notre Dame: 7.49
Nate Potter, Boise State: 7.49

Top 5 in 20-yard shuttle
Rishaw Johnson, California-Pennsylvania: 4.53 seconds
Andrew Datko, Florida State: 4.54
DeCastro: 4.56
Senio Kelemete, Washington: 4.58
John Cullen, Utah: 4.59

Stay on top of all the results with NFL.com’s combine tracker.

Official 40-yard dash times: Tight ends

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are the leading 40-yard dash results for tight ends who worked out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Top 5
James Hanna, Oklahoma: 4.49 seconds
Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette: 4.53
Evan Rodriguez, Temple: 4.58
Michael Egnew, Missouri: 4.62
Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern: 4.64

Stay on top of all the results with NFL.com’s combine tracker.

Official vertical jump, broad jump results: O-linemen

Iowa OL Adam Gettis does the vertical jump Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are the leading vertical jump and broad jump results for offensive linemen who worked out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Top 5 in vertical jump
Donald Stephenson, Oklahoma: 35.5 inches
Desmond Wynn, Rutgers: 32.5
Adam Gettis, Iowa: 31.5
Rishaw Johnson, California-Pennsylvania: 31.5
Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State: 31.5

Top 5 in broad jump
Stephenson: 9 feet, 6 inches
Gettis: 9-4
Thomas Compton, South Dakota: 9-0
Johnson: 9-0
Silatolu: 8-11

Stay on top of all the results with NFL.com’s combine tracker.

Cowboys’ Jones wants combine player interviews on TV

As the league continues to make the NFL Scouting Combine a mainstream, fan-friendly event, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has a suggestion for how to improve the experience for television viewers.

“I wish that our fans could see some of the interviews that the players have with the coaches,” Jones said Saturday while appearing on NFL Network’s coverage of the combine in Indianapolis. “Where do you ever get more real-life — tension, no — but real-life emotion, when you are sitting there as a prospective player getting to participate, live your dream and answer questions about how you feel about, how you view life, how you view the sport? …

“That may add more interest to a broader section of people than watching what we are saying about them when they are running a 40.”

Naturally, coaches and team executives likely won’t be in favor of letting cameras into the interviewing process, and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said he’d be stunned if coaches gave the OK.

The combine drastically has changed since its conception — the NFL will allow 250 fans inside Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday to watch players run through various drills — and Jones, who never has been shy about pushing the envelope, pointed out how coaches initially were uncomfortable when TV cameras were allowed inside draft-day war rooms.

“There are a lot of us that have been around for 30, 40, 50 years that get stunned every day,” Jones retorted. “Times are changing. Things are different, and our fans, we see, really want to be in areas of building a team, making a franchise, they want to be in there from the very beginning.”

“We were the first, the Cowboys, were the first to ever have a camera in the draft room,” Jones added. “And certainly Jimmy Johnson at the time squirmed around a little bit as the coach. … We had a lot of confidence in what ESPN was going to do that day and say, ‘Look if we get into any disparaging thing about a player, we’ll use good judgment.’ And so I think there is a place for that kind of discretion involved with these interviews.”

Official vertical jump, broad jump results: Tight ends

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are the leading vertical jump and broad jump results for tight ends who worked out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Top 5 in vertical jump
Michael Egnew, Missouri: 36 inches
James Hanna, Oklahoma: 36
Deangelo Peterson, LSU: 36
Evan Rodriguez, Temple: 36
Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern: 35.5

Top 5 in broad jump
Egnew: 10 feet, 11 inches
Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette: 10-4
Hanna: 10-2
Emil Igwenagu, Massachusetts: 10-1
Peterson: 10-1

Stay on top of all the results with NFL.com’s combine tracker.

Billick: Signing Manning could set back a team’s progress

INDIANAPOLIS — The way Brian Billick sees it, the biggest dilemma facing a team interested in Peyton Manning isn’t his health. It’s whether or not you want to hand your offense over to him.

Because have no doubt, Billick said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine, it will be Manning’s system for as long as he’s there.

“When you bring in Peyton Manning, it’s, ‘Peyton, bring me your playbook, because that’s what we’re going to put in.’ Why would you not put Peyton Manning in an environment in which he’s most comfortable?” said Billick, the former Ravens coach who’s now an NFL Network analyst. “So you’re going to wrap your entire offense around what he wants to do, and then for whatever time you’ve rented him — is it two years? Is it three years? Hopefully very productive –– you then have to go back and start over.

“Yeah, there’s a huge upside, but there’s got to be a part of you that says you’re anxious to get on with what you want to do and the structure that you put together.”

Billick compared the Manning situation to that of Joe Montana leaving San Francisco for Kansas City in 1993.

“That was Joe Montana’s offense, and they had some success,” Billick said. “Ultimately, it wasn’t the ultimate success, but they made the playoffs, they did a nice job, but then they had to transition, and what did they transition to?

“When you look at Marty (Schottenheimer)‘s progression in Kansas City, what happened after Joe Montana left? It set back the progression that I imagine Marty — and you’d have to ask Marty, I can’t begin to speak for Marty Schottenheimer -– but I can’t imagine that wasn’t a bit of a detour as to what Marty wanted to put together, and ultimately he ended up leaving Kansas City. So I think there are some analogies to draw from that.”

– Aron Angel

Official 40-yard dash times: Offensive linemen

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are the leading 40-yard dash results for offensive linemen who worked out Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Stanford OL David DeCastro runs the 40-yard dash Saturday at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. (Gary A. Vasquez/NFL)

Top 10
Donald Stephenson, Oklahoma: 4.94 seconds
Matt Kalil, USC: 4.99
Note: Stephenson and Kalil are the sixth and seventh offensive linemen to run sub-5-second 40-yard dashes since 2009.
Adam Gettis, Iowa: 5.00
Desmond Wynn, Rutgers: 5.05
Thomas Compton, South Dakota: 5.11
Cordy Glenn, Georgia: 5.15
Brandon Mosley, Auburn: 5.21
Bobby Massie, Mississippi: 5.23
Riley Reiff, Iowa: 5.23

Other notables
Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State: 5.36
Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin: 5.39
Mike Adams, Ohio State: 5.40
David DeCastro, Stanford: 5.43
Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State: 5.43

Stay on top of all the results with NFL.com’s combine tracker.

Smith: Falcons will stay ‘very aggressive’ on fourth-and-short

INDIANAPOLIS — Fourth-and-short is a slippery slope for NFL coaches, something Mike Smith knows all too well. He was 0-for-3 in critical fourth-and-short situations last season, including two failed QB sneaks in the Falcons’ playoff loss to the Giants.

But Smith remains undeterred, telling the media assembled Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine that he’ll “remain very aggressive” in such situations.

“I still have a strong belief in short yardage,” Smith said. “Statistically, you should be able to convert. Unfortunately, we didn’t. When it doesn’t work, it’s not a good call. When it works, it’s a great call.

“Believe me, we do a critical analysis of everything that we do, and fourth down-and-1 was at the top of my list this year, I can assure you.”

Michael Turner likely will continue to play a major part in that approach, but Smith said he’s reevaluating how he uses his featured back, acknowledging that the wear and tear on runners today is “unbelievable.”

“I think the thing we have to do as Michael gets a little older is we have to start putting him on a pitch count in terms of the number of carries,” Smith said. “Michael has over the last four years been a guy that’s had over 300 carries, and I think it’s very important.

“We want to keep him as our featured back, but we definitely need to make sure that we get some of the other guys some carries as well.”

– Aron Angel

Reese: Giants’ acquisition of Cruz was lucky and good

INDIANAPOLIS — Giants general manager Jerry Reese was the lucky one who wound up with Victor Cruz, but he wasn’t boasting Saturday that he knew something more about the receiver two years ago than anyone else.

Instead, Reese said the Giants’ 2010 acquisition of the undrafted free agent was an example of getting lucky — not some crazy identification of talent at the NFL Scouting Combine or somewhere else.

“We missed him, too. We had him labeled just like everybody else — just a local free agent,” Reese said. “He had a couple of redeeming qualities that we liked. We liked that he had some quickness. We liked his hands. We liked the way he understood the offense.

“But we had him rated just like everybody else: Just an undrafted, local free agent.”

Because teams are allowed to bring 30 college prospects into their facilities for visits each year, most GMs are very picky about those lists. But a rule allowing unlimited visits from “local” prospects aided the Giants’ cause.

Cruz is from Paterson, N.J., and played college football at Massachusetts.

“If he wasn’t a local free agent, obviously we wouldn’t have brought him in,” Reese said. “You get lucky like that sometimes. That’s the beauty of it. … That’s the beauty of scouting. It’s not a perfect science.

“But we try to get more right than we get wrong.”

They definitely were right on Cruz, who finished his second season with 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns — not to mention a Super Bowl championship.

– Jeff Darlington

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington

Colts’ Saturday: Manning ‘absolutely’ will play in 2012

Colts center Jeff Saturday still regularly communicates with Peyton Manning, and that inside access has led him to believe one thing: The QB definitely will play in 2012 after he makes a full recovery from four neck surgeries.

“Absolutely,” Saturday told NFL Network at the NFL Scouting Combine. “He’s going to hate me saying that, but I’ve said it since last November, so my story hasn’t changed.”

“He’s doing his deal and he’s getting ready,” Saturday added. “He’ll be playing football, I can assure you that. I hope it’s here (in Indianapolis), but he’ll be playing somewhere.”

Saturday later said he doesn’t want to speak for Manning, but from what he had witnessed since November, he’s confident the QB will return to play well.

“This guy has worked his way back from all these surgeries and all the things he’s going through, and he’ll be ready to rock,” Saturday said.

New Colts coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson told NFL Network on Thursday that they haven’t seen Manning throw yet, but Saturday believes the team should reach out to the four-time NFL MVP if keeping him is the priority.

“I would say if I’m the Colts and I have interest in Peyton, I’m calling him up to get him to come throw for me,” said Saturday, who will be a free agent next month. “I’m not going to wait for him to decide to walk in and throw. I’m going to actively seek that out.”

Saturday was more direct later in the conversation. When Rich Eisen reminded him of Grigson’s comments, Saturday said flately, “I don’t like that.”

“Listen, I’m a player guy and I’m always going to be a player guy,” he said. “I know (Manning’s) phone rings. So if you want to see him throw and that’s important, then he would have been seen throwing.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters last week that he and Manning recently had been in communication, and on Saturday, Irsay took to his favorite social-media platform to reiterate that point.

“Not sure why some speculate that Peyton n I haven’t met in person recently..we’ve met in person n communicated frequently n last week or so,” Irsay wrote on Twitter. “As we have in the last month.”

Saturday seemed to confirm that Irsay and Manning have been in contact, saying “that’s true,” when told of Irsay’s tweet.

“Both of those men care about what they’re doing,” Saturday said. “Jim Irsay loves the Indianapolis Colts and he cares about this franchise, he cares about this community, probably cares about the community more than his actual team, and so he’s going to do what he feels is absolutely best for the Colts. And Peyton is exactly the same way. Peyton doesn’t want to force the team to do something that’s a bad decision for them.”

Saturday has faith that Irsay and Manning eventually will work things out, one way or another.

“I just think we’re trying to force the decision to be made so early,” Saturday said, “that we’re not giving them time to go through the process.”

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