Ten-Point Stance: Mike Freeman's NFL Notebook After the Scouting Combine

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterFebruary 26, 2014

Brian Spurlock/USA Today

1. Texans favoring Clowney?

You weren't the only one blown away by Jadeveon Clowney's hyperdrive 40-time. The Houston Texans were as well. 

A number of NFL team sources say the Texans are now favoring taking Clowney with the first pick in the draft.

This information comes with a caveat—at this time of the year everyone lies about everything. It's always difficult to decipher what is true and what's a smokescreen around draft time.

However, an official inside the Texans organization told me that Clowney's speed, despite being so physically imposing, was one of the more stunning things he'd seen in a long time. "We've never really seen anything like Clowney. There's the chance he could redefine the position the way Reggie White or Bruce Smith did."

Smokescreen? Maybe. Probably. Yet around the league, the view is that the Texans are starting to slowly fall in lust with Clowney.

Clowney's official 4.53 time makes him faster than every starting quarterback in the NFL except Robert Griffin III, and since RGIII is coming off knee surgery, Clowney may be quicker than him as well.

What is also helping Clowney is that he came off well during his interviews with teams, a number of NFL team officials told me. I'm not sure exactly what he said, but the clubs I spoke to seemed to have addressed concerns about his attitude and work ethic. At least for now they are.

What I'm told is the Texans feel is that if they do draft Clowney, once he got into the Texans locker room and was around linemate J.J. Watt—one of the hardest working players in the NFL—Clowney would respond well.

As one Texan official said: No one gets around Watt and slacks.

Yes, Clowney blew everyone away. He shocked the NFL. Especially the team at the top of the draft that is leaning toward taking him.

For now.

2. Speedy DBs

Some of the defensive backs were running incredibly fast times. This might be the reason why:

That's cheating, isn't it?

Not all of the defensive backs were fast, however.

3. Michael Sam combine workouts

They have not been good. At all.

Two different takes on them from two scouts.

First scout: "I keep the combine in perspective. The numbers aren't good, but the film takes precedent. What I see on film is an explosive player. I'm going more by that than what he did (at the combine). I still believe he's a third-round pick based on production in college."

Second scout: "I had concerns about him as a player. I wasn't sure how fast he was. I needed something to confirm what I saw on film, and this was not that. I think his performance will drop him into sixth round or later."

Speaking of Sam, this is some of the stupidity he might face.

4. No trading up in the draft

One thing I hear repeatedly is that you will see very few teams trade up in the May draft. The reason? They won't need to.

You've heard team officials say this is the best draft in 30 years. I've heard some teams theorize this is the best draft going back even further. This means if a team doesn't get its targeted player, there are two or three guys it can pick instead who will be close to, or equal to, in value. So a team can wait and still get a high-value pick without giving up draft selections to move up.

I'm not sure I buy this completely, even though it makes total sense. The reason? The huge amount of talent also makes it easy for teams to move down, and because the talent is so deep, teams won't be able to ask for as many, or as good, picks as compensation to switch positions. In short, a team looking to move down may make it too tempting for a team not to move up.

I know this sounds like Abbott and Costello, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

Sep 28, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes kicker Matt Goudis (18) kicks an extra point as punter Pat O'Donnell (16) holds the ball during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5. Punters are beasts

Miami punter Pat O'Donnell wowed the league when he did 23 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press at the combine. According to a broadcast on Fox, that was more than six tight ends, 19 of 26 running backs, all 37 wideouts and 21 defensive linemen.

Good God.

In all seriousness, O'Donnell's combine workout continues what's been a trend of kickers and punters bulking up and speeding up.

6. The point guard

I keep hearing about this guy over and over and over again.

Teams absolutely love him. Demetri Goodson is a name to keep an eye on in the draft.

Feb 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh speaks during a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

7. Harbaugh's future

Several NFL team officials who are familiar with Jim Harbaugh and the front-office rift—the worst kept secret in football—say it is reminiscent of a blast from the past: Bill Parcells.

It was Parcells, who forced his way out of New England for the Jets for more power, who had the infamous quote: "They want you to cook the dinner, at least they should let you shop for the groceries."

Parcells wanted more power. He wanted control. Harbaugh wants the same. That is definitely part of this dispute.

But it's also Harbaugh. He is an extremely difficult man to work with, I'm told, and part of this is quite simple. He's worn out his welcome within the 49ers organization. It's just time for a change.

What no one knows is what will happen next. At some point, ownership will have a decision to make: Harbaugh or the front office. That will not be an easy one, but the 49ers will have to consider the fact that the team's fortune changed when he came along. That is a fact.

Harbaugh is a pain in the ass, but he wins.

8. The N-word and the NFL

While it seemed the NFL would initiate a rule that would penalize players 15 yards on the field for the use of slurs—particularly use of the N-word—that is seeming far less likely, several sources say. What is becoming more likely is that the league will emphasize to game officials rules that are already in place that prevent the use of such language on the field.

Game officials can already throw a flag for abusive language.

Preventing use of the word in the locker room will be a little bit trickier. In fact, it will be very difficult.

“I think it’s used as a term of endearment between players, and I think it’s so much a part of pop culture and culture in general that it’s going to be very hard to eliminate that from the game,” Packers linebacker Clay Matthews told The Dan Patrick Show this week. “I think is more something that should come from the locker room, organization, and team leaders to remove it if they see fit.

"This is an emotional game played by tough men who obviously are a little crazy in doing so. I think this is going to be a very fine line as far as where this stops, when you start eliminating language from play."

No one should be utilizing the word in the first place. Ever. 

And that is the irony of this situation. It is taking a mostly white-run NFL, telling its mostly white game-officiating base to instruct a mostly black player base not to use a word no black man should ever use in the first place.

On a recent Outside the Lines special, it was revealed that Steelers owner Dan Rooney spoke to one of the team leaders on Pittsburgh and asked that the black players not use that word in the locker room, or play any music that uses the word. It was a brilliant, brave move by Rooney, and it worked. It stopped.

For a day.

Then it was back to use of the word among the black players. Which is sad.

Why aren't black players the ones leading the way on this? Why aren't they saying, "Know your history, know the history of that word and never use it again, black NFL players."

Those are the questions that need to be answered. They are only answered by the black players themselves.

9. Dolphins don't want Jonathan Martin

No matter what you hear or may be privately floated. The Dolphins do not want Jonathan Martin to return to the team. They simply want to create the impression they do so another team trades for him. The Dolphins still hold his rights and will do so for several more months. If no team trades for Martin, they will release him. It's that simple.

10. Jerry Jones' legacy

A quarter century ago this week, Jerry Jones purchased the Cowboys. His record:

@ESPNNFL Twitter account

Those numbers tell you one thing, and one thing only: The Cowboys won Super Bowls because of Jimmy Johnson. They've done almost nothing since Johnson's departure. The definition of average.

That's not a coincidence.

So Jones' legacy is that he will go into the Hall of Fame, but he will go based more on what he did with Johnson than what he's done on his own. Jones has made a lot of money—but since Johnson left, he hasn't done a lot of winning.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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