Wed Apr 21 10:14pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson participates in the school's Pro Day football workout for NFL scouts in Norman, Okla., in this Friday, March 12, 2021, file photo. The coronavirus pandemic scuttled the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, leaving prospects to show off for scouts, coaches and general managers at their college pro day instead. While players lamented the lost opportunity to gather in Indy to be poked, prodded, timed and tested and to square off against their peers an invitation was still a golden ticket. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, FILE)
The NFL is exploring changes to the annual NFL scouting combine to improve the professional and medical experience for draft prospects, a person familiar with those discussions told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The combine in Indianapolis was canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, so prospects displayed their talents for scouts, coaches and general managers at their college pro days instead.
Teams interviewed players virtually and most medical and psychological testing was done by video. About 150 draft prospects did in-person medical evaluations in Indianapolis earlier this month.
The league is seeking input from players who attended the combine previously and rookies who went through this year's version. Teams and their medical staffs also will provide their assessment.
The person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the conversations are ongoing, said the league is evaluating all aspects of the combine, including the player experience. Calling players by their name instead of a number, limiting the number of medical personnel who examine guys and ensuring prospects aren't asked humiliating questions are a point of emphasis.
In 2010, then-Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland apologized to Dallas Cowboys first-round draft pick Dez Bryant for asking during a pre-draft visit whether his mother was a prostitute.
In 2016, then-Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn apologized to Eli Apple because one of his coaches asked the cornerback his sexual preference.
In 2018, former LSU running back Derrius Guice said one team at the combine asked about his sexuality and another inquired if his mother was a prostitute.
Former NFL tight end Benjamin Watson, who played 16 seasons between 2004-20, compared the interview process to an interrogation.
''I can remember sitting in a dark room with a huge spotlight,'' Watson told the AP. ''There's a seat there like you're being interrogated for a crime and all the front office staff is in the back in the shadows and you can't see them. The guy grabbed my wrist and he's like: `I can feel your pulse, so I know if you're lying to me. Have you ever smoked marijuana?' I said: `No.' I really hadn't. I've never smoked. He said: `I think you're lying. I can feel your pulse. Are you lying to us?' I said: `No, I'm not.'
''So for a minute, I thought I actually did smoke marijuana and maybe I need to confess to a crime that I didn't commit. But these sorts of tactics that are happening at the combine and that are not being monitored definitely need to be done away with.''
New Eagles coach Nick Sirianni had a playful way to test the competitiveness of draft prospects. He played rock, paper, scissors virtually with a couple guys and one of his assistant coaches played Jeopardy with them.
''When you compete with somebody that's competitive, they're going to go at you no matter what game you're playing,'' Sirianni said.
Sirianni appreciated the virtual interview process.
''At the combine, you're limited to how many times you can talk to them, how long you can talk to them for,'' he said. ''We were able to get meaningful conversations not under a time limit. It was just great work by the scouts and by the assistant coaches to get that work done on the players and really get to know the players. In a lot of aspects, I think we got way more out of those meetings than we do out of Indy.''
Count Miami Dolphins quarterback Jacoby Brissett among those who prefer pro days over the combine.
''I'm not a fan of the combine,'' he said. ''I think it's very unnecessary. You're going to do the same thing on pro day.''
The Green Bay Packers will bring in quarterbacks Chad Kelly and Kurt Benkert to this weekend's rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Benkert went undrafted out of Virginia and spent the last three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, mainly on the practice squad. Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, was taken with the final pick of the 2017 draft by the Denver Broncos, but he washed out of Denver after two seasons. He's been with the Indianapolis Colts the last two years but was released. Both players could become camp arms with upside further down the depth chart if they sign in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love, last year's first-round pick, are the only signal-callers currently on the roster.
Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio said there is no pressure for rookie quarterback Davis Mills to perform in a hurry despite the turmoil surrounding Deshaun Watson and more than 20 lawsuits filed against him. "No different than any other player," Caserio said of the timeline of bringing along the first-year signal-caller. "Bring him in, teach him our system, teach him our terminology, take it one step at a time." It's unclear what will happen with Watson as the legal proceedings play out, but the Texans weren't looking to trade him, despite his public request, before his legal issues arose. Since then, trade chatter surrounding Watson has quieted down. The three-time Pro Bowler could remain with the Texans in 2021, but wherever he's playing, he could be facing a lengthy suspension as well.
Tennessee Titans TE Parker Hesse, LB Matthew Orzech and LB Nate Orchard were waived Monday, May 10.
Free-agent QB Kurt Benkert (Falcons) and QB Chad Kelly (Colts) will participate in the Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, according to sources.
Free-agent WR Dede Westbrook (Jaguars) has had preliminary conversations with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Washington Football Team signed wide receiver Curtis Samuel to a three-year deal this offseason, reuniting him with head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner from their time together with the Carolina Panthers. Rivera drafted Samuel in 2017, and Turner was the quarterbacks coach in Carolina from 2018-2019. "You can do a lot of different things with him," Turner said. "He's only 24 years old, I think he's just scratching the surface on what he's capable of." Samuel broke out in 2020, catching a career-high 77 passes for 851 yards and three touchdowns, adding 200 rushing yards and two more TDs. Samuel will be the No. 2 behind Terry McLaurin and will be an ideal fit for this offense. He'll be a low-end WR2 with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him passes.
The Los Angeles Chargers signed free-agent defensive tackle Christian Covington to an undisclosed deal on Monday, according to his agent. Covington was a sixth-round pick by the Houston Texans out of Rice in 2015. He's also spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals in his six NFL seasons. Covington started 14 of the 16 games he played in for the Bengals last season and was on the field for 53 percent of the team's defensive snaps. The 27-year-old had 39 tackles (14 solo) and one QB hit. In his NFL career, Covington has 132 tackles (15 for loss), 20 QB hits, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and 8.5 sacks in 82 games (29 starts).
The Kansas City Chiefs signed former linebacker Tamba Hali to a one-day contract on Monday so he can officially retire with the organization. The six-time Pro Bowler played with the Chiefs for his entire 12-year career. The 37-year-old last played in the NFL in 2017, but he made the Pro Bowl with Kansas City in five straight seasons from 2011 to 2015. He was the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft and finished his illustrious career with 596 tackles (105 for loss), 159 QB hits, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), 16 passes defensed, 33 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries (one for a TD) and 89.5 sacks in 177 regular season games (157 starts).
Ex-Seattle Seahawks linebacker Shaquem Griffin has drawn interest from multiple teams and should find a home soon, according to sources informed of the situation. The fifth-rounder in 2018 appeared in 46 games for the Seahawks, recording one sack, six QB hits and 25 tackles. Griffin's twin brother, Shaquill Griffin, signed a big deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. The twins played together at UCF and in Seattle, so Griffin may be looking to join his brother in Jacksonville. His new club could be looking at him as a full-time pass-rusher after he played off the ball in Seattle. The 25-year-old became the odd-man out in Seattle after the team added Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven to the position in recent seasons.
Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher is signing a one-year, $9.4 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, according to a source. The former No. 1 overall pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 will now be quarterback Carson Wentz's blind-side protector in 2021. The 30-year-old tore his right Achilles before the Super Bowl last year and was cut by KC. The Colts won't rush Fisher back, though, so there's a chance that he's not ready to play until early October. Coming out of this year's NFL draft, the left tackle position was still a big area of need for the Colts, but this signing takes care of that and makes their offensive line even more elite. It's excellent news as Wentz tries to bounce back from a disastrous final season with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020. It's also great news for second-year running back Jonathan Taylor.
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, who was waived last week, is visiting the Indianapolis Colts on Monday, according to a source. Woods, a former undrafted free agent out of USC, played two seasons with the Tennessee Titans before joining the Cowboys in 2018. The 6-foot-1, 310-pounder has recorded 83 tackles (25 solo), four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one pass defensed and two fumble recoveries in 40 career games (32 starts) with the Titans and Cowboys. Woods helped spark Dallas' midseason improvement on defense last year when he was moved into the starting lineup, and he finished with 23 tackles (seven solo), one sack and two QB pressures in 14 games (seven starts) in 2020. He'd be a rotational nose tackle for Indy if he were to sign.
Free-agent LB Tamba Hali (Chiefs) signed a one-day contract with the Kansas City Chiefs Monday, May 10, so he can retire as a member of the organization.
Free-agent DE Christian Covington (Bengals) agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Chargers Monday, May 10. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Free-agent QB Blaine Gabbert (Buccaneers) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Monday, May 10.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could realistically land with the Denver Broncos, who have the second-most salary cap space in football.
Fantasy Spin: Rodgers' fantasy value will be about the same wherever he calls signals next season. Denver's thin air can be brutal on a body, and Rodgers has a lengthy injury history. That would be the only concern for the upper-middle QB1.
Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley leads all receivers with 180 catches over the last three seasons while lined up in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus.