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Mike Reiss | Football notes

NFL descends on Heights

Ryan & Co. display their talents Tuesday

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Mike Reiss
Globe Staff / March 16, 2008

Boston College becomes the center of the NFL universe Tuesday.

At least two head coaches, five general managers, and five directors of player personnel are scheduled to attend the Eagles' annual Pro Day. In all, about 25 of the league's 32 teams are planning to have representatives in attendance, from executives, to scouts, to coaches.

With BC quarterback Matt Ryan projected by some as a potential No. 1 overall selection in next month's draft, the spotlight will be shining on Chestnut Hill. BC officials have been planning the event for more than a month, detailing everything from parking to security.

"What we've tried to do is treat it like a football game, making sure everything runs smoothly," explained Barry Gallup, BC's assistant athletic director for football operations.

"The first thing is that we want to make sure all of our athletes only have to worry about performing on the field. We also want the NFL teams to be happy and get what they need, as well as the media."

ESPN and the NFL Network are planning to send television crews. BC associate athletic director for media relations Chris Cameron has received approximately 30 requests for credentials to cover the event, which is not open to the public.

All eyes will be on Ryan, who did not throw passes at last month's NFL combine, saying he wanted to work out in familiar conditions and with players with whom he has a background. Ryan will be throwing to running backs Andre Callendar and L.V. Whitworth, tight ends Ryan Thompson and Jonathan Loyte, and receivers Kevin Challenger and Tony Gonzalez.

Ryan's workout will be held in the Alumni Stadium indoor bubble, and will be directed by BC offensive coordinator Steve Logan.

"Steve is a good person to run it, because he sees it from both standpoints - from Matt's perspective and from also having worked in NFL Europe, he knows what teams are looking for," said Gallup, noting that BC head coach Jeff Jagodzinski has had considerable input, drawing from his time as an NFL assistant.

"Steve sent Matt a script of how things would go, and they were planning to meet this weekend to go through it exactly. They'll show every throw the NFL wants to see - a three-step drop, five-step drop, play-action, scrambling ability. He'll cover everything he would have done at the combine, the only difference is that it will be here."

In addition to Ryan, offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus is expected to draw significant attention. Cherilus is a potential first-round pick, and the Bears and Jets already have been to town to put him through private workouts.

If both Ryan and Cherilus are selected within the first 31 picks, it will mark only the second time in school history that two players were first-round picks. In 2002, running back William Green (16th, Cleveland) and offensive lineman Marc Colombo (29th, Chicago) were first-rounders.

In all, 17 BC players are scheduled to work out, as well as select players from Harvard, Northeastern, Massachusetts, Holy Cross, and Bentley.

Gallup added that it's nice that BC alums such as Pete Kendall and Josh Beekman have reached out to help. Kendall told Gallup he'd like to be on hand to support the players, while Beekman, a fourth-round draft choice of the Bears last year, plans to speak with his former teammates about the Pro Day experience beforehand.

Florida, Georgia, Penn State, Syracuse, and Virginia also have Pro Days scheduled on their campuses Tuesday, but BC should rival them for top billing. For Gallup, the attention is another reminder of the growing interest in the draft and the hot-stove portion of the league's offseason.

"It's pretty amazing - 25 years ago, when Doug Flutie was here, there wasn't an NFL Network and the combine was just getting started," he said. "To see how it's all changed, the technology too, it's unbelievable.

"I was going through a report on NFL.com from Gil Brandt that had each one of the Pro Days that happened already and there are no secrets out there, because it has everyone's test results."

As for what happens during a Pro Day, BC's agenda will look like this:

  • 7:30 a.m. - NFL officials register upon arrival.

  • 7:30-10:30 a.m. - Officials have the opportunity to evaluate film of players on campus.

  • 10:30-11 a.m. - Informational meeting for NFL officials with BC's Jason Loscalzo and Darin Lovat (strength and conditioning), and Steve Bushee (sports medicine).

  • 11-11:30 a.m. - Informational meeting for NFL officials with BC's Gallup and Jeff Comissiong (pro liaison).

  • 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. - In the weight room, players go through height/weight measurements, vertical jump, broad jump, and bench press (225 pounds).

  • 1:30-4 p.m. - Players go through running test and positional workouts.

    For players, the day will wrap up with a news conference and a chance to meet with the NFL officials.

    "We understand why they're here; it's a multimillion-dollar business and they want to be as thorough as possible, with no mistakes," said Gallup. "I wish we could do something like it with recruiting and work out every kid.

    "This is great exposure for the school and a great opportunity for the players. We're excited about it."

    On a rocky road in Denver

    When Broncos coach Mike Shanahan abruptly dismissed general manager Ted Sundquist last Wednesday, the question in some league circles was, "Why now?"

    The NFL draft is April 26-27, which makes this a crucial time for planning. Teams making such changes generally wait until after the draft, which is why many felt the timing reflected how deep a rift had developed between Sundquist and Shanahan.

  • Now, Shanahan is finding that the heat, at least publicly, is being turned up on him.

    As one of the few coaches in the NFL who has final say on personnel, his track record has been shaky. Critics also are pointing out that since the Broncos lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game in 2005, it seems other team personnel have received their share of the blame, but not Shanahan.

    Quarterback Jake Plummer was jettisoned. Two defensive coordinators, Larry Coyer and Jim Bates, have come and gone. Now Sundquist, following a 16-year run with the team, takes a fall.

    With the Broncos having missed the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, some are calling for Shanahan to give up some of the power that comes with his title of executive vice president of football operations, and focus on his true expertise: coaching. But things appear headed in the opposite direction, with Shanahan taking more upon himself.

    All of which has added up to a bumpy ride for the Broncos, with Shanahan squarely in the crosshairs.

    Brennan showed hints of
    stardom at Worcester Academy

    Few prospects eligible for April's draft have generated as much passionate debate as Hawaii quarterback and 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan.

    He's too small! What about the sidearm-like delivery? He struggled badly in the Sugar Bowl! The Senior Bowl, too. What about that off-field incident before he transferred from Colorado? How much of his impressive stats are a result of a run-and-shoot system?

    In one section of the Bay State, however, Brennan has unconditional support. It traces back to 2002, when Brennan was a postgraduate student at Worcester Academy.

    Brennan had just concluded his studies at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., which is known for its strong athletic programs.

    Having spent much of his high school football career as a backup to current Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart, and with only one year as a starter, Brennan felt another season of experience would serve him well before college. So, following in the football footsteps of his cousin (in the mid-1990s), he sent tapes to Worcester Academy.

    Patrick Smith, Worcester Academy's coach at the time, thought he was watching a Division 1-AA college team.

    Brennan enrolled and led a team that included talented receivers in former New Hampshire star David Ball (now with the New York Jets) and Carl Elliot, who played Division 1 basketball at George Washington. Worcester was young on the line, but it was no surprise that with the talent at the skill positions, the team's first game had a 50-48 score.

    The team finished 4-4 and, mostly because of his size, Brennan didn't receive the Division 1-A scholarship offers he coveted, so he attempted to walk on at Colorado. Brennan's time at Colorado came to an abrupt end when he was convicted of first-degree criminal trespass and second-degree burglary, receiving four years' probation for unlawfully entering a coed's dorm room.

    While Brennan says he regrets putting himself in that situation, he noted last month at the NFL combine that the incident wasn't as severe as it's been portrayed by some.

    Having been dismissed from Colorado's football team, Brennan moved on to Saddleback Junior College before walking on at Hawaii and emerging as the rifle-armed leader of a dynamic passing attack. Now that he's on the NFL radar, Brennan has been open about discussing his up-and-down journey.

    As for one quick stop on his journey, Brennan left a solid impression on those around him in Massachusetts. Both Smith and current Worcester Academy coach John Aloisi, then an assistant, have only rave reviews.

    "Everyone recognized he was a real good kid and wanted to see him succeed, especially now with all the trials and tribulations he's gone through," Smith said. "Everyone at Worcester Academy is pulling for him. There is certainly a sense of pride there."

    Etc.

    Raiders opening door for Hall
    Disgruntled Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall has been shopped over the last month, and while the Falcons had been seeking a first-round draft choice, ESPN reported last night that Atlanta struck a deal with Oakland for a second-round pick. Two aspects had previously held up a deal. First, Hall can become a free agent after the 2008 season and teams interested in acquiring him wouldn't consummate a trade until they hammered out an extension. Second, Hall's outburst at the NFL Combine last month - in which he said he wanted to play for another team and took some shots at Falcons management - actually did more harm than good, leading at least one interested club to wonder if it could handle him. With that in mind, it's little surprise that the free-spending Raiders were ultimately the team to step up.

    Full advantage
    In his rookie training camp with the Patriots in 2003, defensive lineman Dan Klecko played fullback for the first time. "I was a rookie, so it was something where I just did what I was told," said Klecko, "and I'll never forget that first block - me and Ted Johnson knocked each other out." In his time with the Patriots (2003-05) and Colts (2006-07), Klecko mixed the fullback work with time on the defensive line. But after signing with the Eagles last week, the 5-foot-11-inch, 275-pound Klecko is preparing to become a full-time fullback. "It's pretty crazy the way that works out, but I think it's helped me lengthen my career," Klecko said. "It's funny, I'll lose the label of being the undersized guy, which I used to fight, and now I'm an oversized guy. If I do it the right way, it could be a whole new career."

    Fall of Alexander
    How fast can things change for NFL running backs? Just ask Seattle's Shaun Alexander. When he was named MVP of the 2005 season, he led the league in rushing and set a record with 28 touchdowns. Soon thereafter, Alexander signed a reported eight-year, $62 million contract. Two years later, he's expected to be looking for a new job. The Seahawks have added Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett in free agency, and the 30-year-old Alexander, set to enter his ninth season, clearly sees the writing on the wall. He's expected to be released after June 1.

    Extra points
    Browns owner Randy Lerner told Cleveland reporters last week that general manager Phil Savage will receive a contract extension despite having two years left on his original five-year deal. Meanwhile, Savage won't be too busy on draft weekend, since Cleveland has traded away its picks in the first three rounds . . . As of late last week, the only NFL teams not to sign an unrestricted free agent from another club were the Bears, Cowboys, Packers, Colts, Chargers, and Redskins . . . The Bengals backed out of a trade for Jets defensive lineman Dewayne Robertson because of concerns about Robertson's knee. Now, as word of Robertson's condition spreads, the Jets are going to have trouble moving him . . . Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told Dallas beat reporters that cornerback, receiver, and running back are top needs for the Boys entering the draft . . . The Titans, under new running backs coach Earnest Byner, are hoping to develop a Kevin Faulk-like third-down option. While they'd like to see second-year player Chris Henry fill the void, they are also looking to the draft, where coach Jeff Fisher feels there is a strong crop . . . The Texans watched linebackers Danny Clark and Charlie Anderson, who split starts last season on the strong side, depart in free agency. Houston hopes second-year man Zach Diles and former Seahawks backup Kevin Bentley can fill the void.

    Did you know?
    As of late last week, 90 unrestricted free agents had switched teams since free agency began Feb. 29. The Dolphins had signed the most players from other teams, nine. The Buccaneers were next, adding eight, followed by the Falcons (six), Jets (five), Vikings (five), and Panthers (five).

    Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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