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Perry takes calm approach to draft

Some advice for Chris Perry: claim an aisle seat at the movie theater. That way he'll avoid repeated "excuse me's" if he chooses to answer his cellphone during Saturday's matinee. If not, he should set his ringer to vibrate, or let his voicemail pick up, unless he doesn't mind being bombarded with pleas for quiet. It's not as though he'll be checking his cellphone every few minutes for messages. Perry, a highly rated senior running back from Michigan, won't allow himself to get caught up in the suspense of the draft. Finding out whether The Bride gets her revenge is more exciting to him than finding out who gets his services. So rather than sweat over which Bill -- Belichick or Parcells -- picks him in Saturday's NFL draft, Perry, something of a movie buff, instead will kill time by checking out "Kill Bill Vol. 2."

" `Troy' isn't out yet," Perry said, "so I can't see that."

The draft begins at noon, but Perry doesn't plan to see anything until 1 p.m. at the earliest -- he's sleeping in. "By the time I wake up, the first five picks should be done. You know it takes like an hour to draft two people," he said jokingly.

But he's serious about not spending draft day the traditional way -- at home, on the couch, surrounded by family and friends and friends of friends. "I don't need to watch the draft to get drafted," said Perry, never a loyal viewer of the two-day event. "I just want to hurry up and get it over with. It's a necessary evil, something you have to go through. But being stressed out isn't going to help anything."

The team that drafts Perry -- he is projected as a late first- or early second-rounder -- will get a 6-foot, 224-pound mail carrier who can help in a lot of ways. A Heisman Trophy finalist last year after gaining 1,674 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns on 338 attempts (including 52 in a game) for the Wolverines, Perry's receiving and blocking skills make him possibly the best all-purpose back available.

"I think I stack up very well," Perry said at February's NFL draft combine. "Everybody has their strengths. Steven Jackson [Oregon State] is a big, powerful guy. Kevin Jones [Virginia Tech] has blazing speed. I think I'm versatile. I do everything well."

"Chris has been a real productive back for Michigan," said Belichick, who, along with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and running backs coach Ivan Fears, met with Perry at Gillette Stadium last Wednesday. The next day, Perry visited the Cowboys, who hold the 22d overall selection, one behind the Patriots.

"He has excellent hands," Belichick said. "He probably catches the ball as well as any back in the draft. There isn't any reason to think he couldn't play on all three downs. He has good power, he has real good vision, he finds a lot of holes, and is a nifty guy. He can make some nice cuts there on the line of scrimmage and get through some small places but is still a physical guy that runs hard. I think that he has a lot of things going for him."

Just not enough it seems. Most consider Jackson and Jones better. "I don't see how you can be the most complete and be the third back," Perry said last week. "I don't understand how that goes."

You'd think the guy who can do the most would be rated the highest.

"You said it. I didn't," Perry said.

Perry liked what the Patriots, who also have the 32d pick in the first round, had to say during his trip to Foxborough. "I like their view on things," he said. "They're no-nonsense. They get down to work, and they're about winning. As much as I could tell, it's no games around there."

You'd be correct in assuming that the guy skipping the draft doesn't have a preference as to where he plays next season. "Of course I want to go as high as possible," he said. "You make more money. Everyone wants to go high. But it doesn't matter [to which team] I go."

Perhaps it shouldn't, but times in the 40-yard dash do matter, and, even after training with speed coach Tom Shaw, Perry ran a disappointing 4.62 in his individual workout. "If I'd have run a faster time, I don't think we're having this discussion," he said. And for some, it matters that Perry went to Michigan. One offensive coordinator gave that as major concern with him, that Perry could follow ex-Wolverines Tim Biakabutuka (picked eighth in 1996), Tyrone Wheatley (17th in 1995), and Jarrod Bunch (27th in 1991), all first-round picks who failed to meet expectations.

It doesn't bother Belichick. "You can always generalize and say, `Well, these guys have done well at this school,' or, `These guys haven't done well at this position,' or whatever," Belichick said. "I think you just have to evaluate the players for what they are and not get too hung up on what somebody three or four years ago did at a school."

"Each back is different," said Perry, who turned in back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to finish his Michigan career. "I think people are being unfair. If you really look at Michigan running backs, we have been successful. Anthony Thomas [of the Bears] was the rookie of the year [2001, Sports Illustrated], and then Chicago lost some of their linemen. Tyrone Wheatley's been in the league 10 years strong. What do they expect? Biakabutuka was injured.

"Every back is his own man, and I feel I'm just as good, if not better, than them." 

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