Gabbert's gift of gab, Ingram slims down, more Combine Snaps
• I failed to ask Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert if he has any designs on being either an entertainer or icon, but it's pretty clear the junior doesn't lack for confidence in his own abilities, or his attractiveness as perhaps the top-rated quarterback in this year's draft.
Questions about a spread-offense quarterback succeeding in the NFL? They don't exist in Gabbert's mind.
"Tim Tebow, the knock on him was he was 100-percent shotgun quarterback, and he started the last three games at Denver and had (rookie) success,'' Gabbert said in his Friday afternoon media session. "Sam (Bradford), he was the same way. He was in the shotgun a lot in college. Colt McCoy, the same way. These guys all had success in their rookie seasons, so I really don't see a problem being a spread quarterback in college, because if you're good, you're good. You're going to play wherever.''
NFL scouts agree that Gabbert's good, but they also still need to see him play under center before they can fully judge his ability to transition to a pro-style offense. The issue won't really get cleared up much here this weekend, because Gabbert has chosen -- or more accurately, his agent Tom Condon, has chosen for him -- not to throw in Sunday's QB workouts. A March 17 pro day at Missouri is where Gabbert can start to show off the under-center form he has been working on for weeks now in Arizona.
"Of course the footwork is different (in the spread),'' Gabbert said. "We're in the shotgun about 98 percent of the time (at Missouri). So that's what I've been working on, that's what I've focused on at Athletes Performance in Arizona. My quarterback coach, Terry Shea, has made that an extremely important process that I have to work on. I've done a great job so far and haven't seen a problem one bit. I have all the confidence in the world in my abilities.''
The buzz may be building on behalf of Auburn's Cam Newton as the first quarterback taken, and maybe even the No. 1 overall pick; but plenty of draft analysts seem to believe that Gabbert has more pieces of the puzzle in place than any other quarterback prospect. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock likes Gabbert's size (6-4, 234 pounds), arm strength and pocket presence, and rates him No. 1 on his quarterback board. But he has concerns about that footwork that Gabbert seems to think is no problem, and it again goes back to the spread offense versus an under-center style of quarterbacking.
"He's a spread-offense guy, completely different than what he's going to do in the NFL,'' Mayock said. "So what I'm talking about is the transition from a college spread to an NFL guy, which is a lot harder than people understand. The footwork is completely different, the reads are completely different.''
Gabbert's feet may be a work in progress, but this much came through loud and clear during his chat with the media: He's good at math. Once he looked at how the top of the draft stacked up this year, and how many teams need quarterback help, his decision to declare for the NFL was an easy one. He made the right call there, because with Andrew Luck staying at Stanford, and No. 1 Carolina, No. 3. Buffalo, No. 4 Cincinnati and No. 5 Arizona possibly all in the market to draft a first-round quarterback, I can't see Gabbert lasting much past the Cardinals' pick.
"That was definitely a big factor in my decision,'' Gabbert said. "You look at the top 15 teams, and potentially 10 teams could use a quarterback. I know every quarterback in the draft looked at that, not only me. But that's kind of why I decided to come out."
• According to my informal poll conducted here the past two days, I think it's fair to say that Newton's "I want to be an entertainer and an icon'' proclamation hasn't gone over all that well with NFL decision-makers.
Said one NFL head coach: "That really turned me off when I heard that. That's exactly the wrong message to send. You want your quarterback to be the exact opposite of a guy who's interested in something like that. I can't believe he'd actually say something like that, but that's a guy I want no part of."
• By now, you might have picked up on the fact that I'm a pessimist when it comes to the chances of a quick resolution in the NFL's labor showdown. But now I'm convinced it's going to be a long standoff, after hearing a veteran agent say that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith on Friday reported no progress on the three main issues that separate the two sides: 1) The size of the revenue split between players and owners, 2) the 18-game schedule debate, and 3) institution of a rookie wage scale.
And that's after seven days worth of meetings as part of the two sides agreeing to enter the mediation process. While any time spent with the two sides talking to one another directly is a positive, very little of consequence happened in the mediation sessions, and I wouldn't be holding my breath for progress when the union and the league reconvene next week in Washington.
• Other than making the transparent point that other teams should follow the Raiders' recent lead and start aggressively re-signing their own players -- CBA uncertainty be darned -- agent Drew Rosenhaus did make sense when he explained why it's a lose-lose situation for everyone if the owners go the expected route of a lockout.
"There are some real problems for teams,'' Rosenhaus said, as part of a super-agents press conference with Tom Condon, Ben Dogra and Joel Segal that was intended as a show of union solidarity. "It's not just the players and the union. The owners need to be concerned, too. They've invested a tremendous amount of money in the players that they have under contract. There's no way for them to get better. They can't sign guys. They can't make trades. They're limited during the draft. They can only trade picks.
"They can't cut players once there's a lockout. They can't work their guys out. Their coaches can't talk to their players. The drug program ends. This is really a huge problem for the owners. It's not just us sitting here saying, 'Oh, wow, what about us?' The owners have some significant issues, and it's serious on their end. They're feeling it right now, believe me.''
I just wish Rosenhaus would have followed up that impassioned soliloquy with his trademark, "Next question?"
• Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan met with the media late Friday afternoon and conceded that running back Clinton Portis will be "allowed to test the market.'' What market, you say? That's a fair question, given the current state of affairs in the NFL's labor's situation will likely preclude any free-agency period.
Portis is slated to make too much money this year, so his release is a foregone conclusion. Shanahan wasn't quite so forthcoming when asked about the roster status of Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb, saying the team will likely make a decision on McNabb after the draft, and leaving Haynesworth's future with the team uncertain.
But that's likely just posturing for trade purposes. Washington will try and find a trade partner for both McNabb and Haynesworth, but I'm not optimistic that they'll get much, if anything, in return. Just add them to the long list of failed Redskins personnel moves.
• Former Heisman winner Mark Ingram will do everything in terms of the running back workout here, and he'll do it a lighter weight than he played at for Alabama. Ingram has lost about 10 pounds in the past six weeks while doing some pre-combine training in New Orleans. He measured in at 5-9, 215 pounds at the combine, and said he likes the new version of himself.
"I was just a little too heavy,'' Ingram said. "I felt I could be more explosive at a lighter weight. I've played faster at a lighter weight. One of my main focuses has been just losing a few pounds, so I can perform to the best of my ability.''
In an era when taking a running back in the first round almost seems unwise, Ingram is clearly a first-round talent. I don't know how he could slip past No. 15 Miami. He's not head-and-shoulders better than any other runner in the 2011 class, he's a whole torso better.
• I've had Washington taking Newton at No. 10 in my first two mock drafts, but after listening to Shanahan talk about the Auburn star on Friday, I think there's still plenty of work to be done in terms of closing that particular deal.
Shanahan said he won't kill Newton on the basis of just his one ill-advised "entertainer and icon'' line, but he also mentioned the importance of getting to know both the person and the player.
"I think you deal in everything,'' Shanahan said. "You watch the film. I've watched a lot of film on Cam and he's an unbelievable athlete. He can make all the throws and is what you want in a quarterback. I think a lot of people will spend some time and ask what kind of guy are we dealing with? Is it a one-year guy, or he is going to take you to the next level? Obviously though, he has all the skill you'd want in a quarterback. Very talented.''
• Packers general manager Ted Thompson is taking the traditional victory lap that Super Bowl winners take here at the combine. Not that he's gloating about Green Bay's victory, but he can't get very far in Indianapolis without accepting the congratulations of one of his NFL peers. But he knows it's a very short-lived experience.
"Everyone has been very gracious,'' the usually stoic Thompson said. "They've said 'Congratulations.' I used to do the same thing. I didn't mean it. I was just being nice. Everyone is so competitive in this league and I'm sure we have 31 teams that want a piece of us.''