Combine Notebook: 'Insiders' vs. Teammate on the Josh Rosen Character Question
Quarterbacks don't throw until Saturday and don't even speak to reporters until Friday. Yet quarterbacks were on everyone's mind during Day 2 of the NFL Scouting Combine. In this notebook:
- A UCLA teammate takes aim at the Josh Rosen rumor-mongers.
- The 49ers brass pumps the brakes slightly on Jimmy Garoppolo's Hall of Fame bandwagon.
- Hand size measurements cause their usual mid-morning hand-wringing.
- Oklahoma behemoth stands tall for Baker Mayfield and stands behind his poor workout results.
And much, much more. Including Quenton Nelson, who is much, much more all by himself!
Josh Rosen's Teammate Sets the Record Straight
Josh Rosen is a jerk.
You have probably heard or read some variation of that bit of gossip about the former UCLA quarterback. Here in Indianapolis, you can barely order a beer without the bartender telling you that he overheard whispers that Josh Rosen is hated by every last one of his teammates.
Well, one of those teammates, offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry (pictured), is having none of it.
"I love Josh," Quessenberry said Thursday. "We're close. We're tight. When I saw him here for the first time in two months, I gave him a big bear hug." Quessenberry even said he hoped Rosen would someday be part of his wedding.
Now, every scouting combine is full of tepid endorsements by teammates of big-name prospects who have character questions. You practically have to be Kylo Ren for teammates to bad-mouth you to the national media.
But Quessenberry wasn't reciting he's a swell teammate platitudes. He was practically pounding the podium.
"The media puts out what they put out, and his teammates dispute everything the media puts out," Quessenberry said. "I said it before, I'll say it again, and I'll keep saying it until the end of my days: I love Josh Rosen, and I hope I get to play with him at the next level."
Quessenberry praised Rosen's "up everybody's behind" leadership. "He's tough as nails," according to Quessenberry, who described one play when a bloodied-up Rosen ran for a two-point conversion after nearly getting his helmet ripped off on the previous play.
Quessenberry doesn't know where the "bad teammate" story is coming from, though he suspects that some observers may have decided that Rosen was too "boisterous" or "opinionated."
This is the time of year when quarterbacks are psychoanalyzed by the rumor mill. And yes, most rumors start with some kernel of truth. Rosen probably rubs some teammates and coaches the wrong way. So does Tom Brady.
This "universally hated" gossip has taken a life of its own and is now getting passed fifth-hand from "insider" to "insider." And it's silly. No quarterback can function if he is that much of a pariah.
Rosen gets to address the rumors about him Friday. Until then, Quessenberry has provided a pretty staunch defense.
Orlando Brown Will Steal Your Ray Lewis Football Cards
Orlando Brown made the right kind of news during Wednesday weigh-ins when he tipped the scales at a whopping 345 pounds, at just a hair under 6'8", with an 85 ⅛-inch wingspan. He then made the wrong kind of news on Wednesday by clearing just 14 reps on the bench press.
After the disappointing weight session, the engaging Brown (and his exceptional glasses) talked about the workout, about Baker Mayfield and about growing up in the shadow of his namesake father, a great Ravens offensive lineman of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
On what went wrong during the bench session, and what it means:
"I didn't stick to my breathing routine. That's the lowest I have ever done, and I'll redo it at my pro day. Keeping it real, it will be held against me. All my numbers will be held against me. As an offensive tackle, my numbers are going to be compared to other offensive tackles. That's just the reality of it."
On the "character issues" surrounding Oklahoma teammate Baker Mayfield:
"From a character standpoint, I know there's been a lot of issues in the public eye, from the crotch-grabbing to [what] happened in Arkansas. But in reality, who he is as a person, I've never experienced anything wrong or anything bad.
"You can ask anyone who knows him. He's an incredible person. For me personally, he's a very supportive leader. He's a worker. He's really about his craft. And he's very well-respected."
On his father's legacy:
"I don't necessarily try to model my game after him. What I learned from my dad was really more a mentality. He wasn't the most technical, fundamental football player. It was more the way he approached the game, his work ethic."
On growing up in the Ravens locker room:
"Being in Baltimore was really cool. Some of my dad's really good friends were Ray Lewis, Jamal Lewis, Ed Reed, Alan Ricard, Priest Holmes, guys like that. I remember being around them. The kids at school would hand me Ray Lewis pictures to be signed, and I'd keep them."
On adjusting to the three-point stance after playing his college career in a two-point stance:
"It's not going to be a big issue at all. It was just something we weren't asked to do in college. I'm very capable of it. I haven't had any struggles with it."
On why he did not play a different position to avoid comparisons to his father:
"I've been fat my whole life. I wish I was fast. If I was fast and 6'2", I'd probably be playing defensive back. But God blessed me."
Quenton Nelson Pancakes Convential Draft Logic
Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson measured 6'5" and 325 pounds and bench-pressed 35 reps Thursday. He looks like a runaway bulldozer on the field and looked like a parked bulldozer when speaking to the media Thursday.
Nelson is the best offensive lineman in the draft. But Nelson is a guard, and conventional NFL wisdom states that while left tackles merit high first-round picks and Sandra Bullock movies, guards should be selected in later rounds because of the interchangeability of talent and relative ease of the blocking assignments at the position.
So Nelson was asked to defend his status as a potential top-five pick in the draft.
"I think I should be part of the top-five conversation, because you have [offensive interior linemen] that are dominating the NFL right now—Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox—that have just been working on interior guys," Nelson said. "And you need guys to stop them. And I think I'm one of those guys. ...
"You talk to quarterbacks, and they say that if a defensive end gets on the edge, that's fine: They can step up into the pocket and they can throw. A lot of quarterbacks, if given the opportunity, can do that. So that's what I give: a pocket to step up in.
"I think I also help the offense establish the run, with my nastiness. By establishing the run, it also opens up the passing game. So I think it's a good choice."
Nelson's agent couldn't have said it better himself. But how is it that a young person fresh out of school is able to provide more thoughtful, logical answers than the old men who make all of the decisions and have become both ingrained in their own thinking and contemptuous of anyone who questions their long-assumed wisdom?
Oh wait, I think that question just answered itself.
Combine News and Notes
Josh Allen can throw a football 90 yards and 70 miles per hour.
A performance coach said so on NFL Network (per Michael David Smith at Pro Football Talk). He learned this by asking Allen to throw a seven-yard slant.
If you ever wondered how Percy Harvin would have turned out if he started his career on a Jeff Fisher team, now you know.
Ohio State center Billy Price suffers a pectoral injury during the bench press session.
Imagine suffering a cataclysmic, career-redefining injury during a job interview in front of an audience. Come to think of it, every college football injury can be described that way.
Browns GM John Dorsey says the team is open to trading the top pick in the draft.
Judging by Dorsey's facial expression during his press conference, he was trolling the entire NFL and relishing every moment of it.
Saquon Barkley spoke to the media.
Like, the entire media, as in every reporter, cameraman and citizen blogger on the planet, judging by the crowd around his riser (pictured).
Tempered Enthusiasm, Realistic Expectations and Jimmy Garoppolo
If you have Jimmy Garoppolo Fever, 49ers general manager John Lynch has the cure: a bucket of ice-cold water in the form of a press-conference reality check.
"We're very much a work in progress," Lynch said on Thursday, several times.
But what about the nigh-messianic Jimmy G? Surely his status as the Next Tom Brady preordains instant success for the 49ers!
"The story's not yet written," Lynch said. "And Jimmy knows that. He's cognizant that we have a lot of work to do. And we have a lot of work to do as a team."
Oh, come on. Surely the arrival of Garoppolo resets the 49ers' timetable for success. They were a start-from-scratch rebuilding team this time last year. Shouldn't we expect, at minimum, three Super Bowl championships by late October?"
"Timetables? I'm not going to do that. But having a quarterback: it makes you better."
Garoppolo's presence is a starting point for the 49ers, not an end in itself. Though a little bit of Garoppomania won't hurt the team in free agency. Lynch acknowledged that their newly signed franchise QB will be a part of the team's sales pitch to veterans.
"It will be nice in free agency when anyone we are going for doesn't ask who our quarterbacks are," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan added. "I don't always have to say: 'We'll have one. I promise.'"
So the 49ers are bound to get better. And in a division where the Cardinals are starting over and the Seahawks are always on the eve of self-destruction, that means anything is possible.
But Lynch and Shanahan don't want anyone getting swept up in the hype, including their own players.
"Bill Parcells said it best: You are what your record says you are," Lynch joked. "We're a 6-10 team. We were 1-5 in our division. Did we finish strong? Absolutely. But I can tell you that in Tampa, when we were trying to turn it around, there were years when we finished strong. It doesn't guarantee success next year."
Shanahan echoed the sentiment. "If you want to get people excited about 6-10, start out 0-9," he quipped.
Lynch and Shanahan sound genuinely excited about what they are building—as they should be. But the key word is "building." There's a lot to do before the 49ers can be counted among the NFL's true contenders.
But the 49ers have a quarterback they are certain they can build a team around. For many of the franchises starting over this week, having one of those alone is grounds for celebration.
No Country for Old Running Backs
While running back prospects prepared for the most important workouts of their lives, the NFL bid farewell to over 30,000 career rushing yards this week as Matt Forte retired, the Panthers released Jonathan Stewart and the Colts announced that they will not re-sign Frank Gore.
As the quotes below reveal, these veteran workhorses leave behind a void in both production and leadership. Let's hear what their coaches and GMs had to say about their departures and take a look at what's next for the three teams that are moving on at running back.
What they said: Colts GM Chris Ballard shared a story from last season, when all hope was lost for the Colts, and a veteran of Gore's stature could be forgiven for guarding himself while injured.
"We're playing the Buffalo game where he had all the carries," Ballard said. (Gore rushed 36 times in the snow in that game.) "After the game he had broken his thumb. And they had said, 'You do surgery, just put a little pin in and get it right.' We're playing Thursday night against Denver, and I go to Frank after the game. 'Hey, man, I'm a football player. I'm playing. I'm playing.' You'd think with what the record was at the time...that's the epitome of Frank Gore.
What's next for the Colts: New Colts coach Frank Reich didn't sound like he loved the idea of dynamic speedster Marlon Mack as an every-down runner in Indianapolis. Reich is also coming off Super Bowl success in Philly with a three-headed backfield. Look for the Colts to pursue grinders in both the middle rounds of the draft and on discount in free agency to complement Mack.
What they said: "Matt and [linebacker] David Harris were very similar from a coaching standpoint," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "They're the guys that you want your guys to be like in the locker room, on and off the field: highly professional, highly motivated, great work ethic, did everything the right way, tough, smart, intelligent. Everything you want your players to be like and emulate, those two guys represented."
What's next for the Jets: The team has never considered reliable, versatile Bilal Powell to be a true No. 1 running back. Elijah McGuire had a few strong midseason games as a rookie before tailing off last season. With needs all over the roster, the Jets may have to make do with a Powell-McGuire rotation, though they could use a speedy playmaker in the mix. The one thing the Jets should not do is pursue a veteran free agent: Forte did the job for them, but he also made it too easy to ignore a position that needed an influx of youth for the last two seasons.
What they said: "He's been the physical presence on the offensive side that sets the tone," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "Last year, we went to Tennessee for a preseason game, and they got after us pretty good in the first quarter. Then we ran a couple of straight downhill plays with Jonathan, and you could see the whole team pick up after that. That's what he's meant to us."
What's next for the Panthers: Christian McCaffrey is expected to become more of a focal point of the offense, but he is an all-purpose back, not the kind of workhorse both Rivera and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner have relied on in the past. Look for the Panthers to shop for a downhill tone-setter, possibly on Day 2 of the draft.
The War on Quarterback Hand Size Day
You used to be able to go on the internet and wish your friends a Merry Quarterback Hand Size Day. But now the lamestream football media is trying to take that right away from you.
Quarterback Hand Size Day (a festival initiated by Bleacher Report's own Doug Farrar) is a celebration of both the official hand measurements reported during the NFL Scouting Combine and the maniacal tizzy those measurements cause among media members, Draft Trekkers and fans.
Most teams set a minimum threshold for a draftable quarterback's throwing hand at 9 to 9 ½ inches, pinkie to thumb. Any smaller than that and gripping a wet or ice-cold football really can be a problem. Since most top prospects easily clear that minimum threshold, Quarterback Hand Size Day is a non-event consisting mostly of draft know-it-alls reassuring each other that making a fuss over eighths of an inch on a Thursday morning in March truly is a productive use of time.
So let's celebrate Quarterback Hand Size Day the way our ancestors taught us: by exchanging gifts of mittens and hand sanitizer and munching on finger sandwiches beneath our tinsel-laden palm trees, and by comparing the "measurements" of college dudes in a 100 percent non-creepy way.
And now, the ceremonial reading of the hand sizes of this year's top prospects:
Josh Allen, Wyoming: 10 ⅛ inches. That's fine.
Sam Darnold, USC: 9 ⅜ inches. Also fine.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville: 9 ½ inches. Yep, fine.
Josh Rosen, UCLA: 9 ⅞ inches. Fine.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: 9 ¼ inches. OMG! THAT BARELY MEETS THE MINIMUM! WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! THE SKY IS FALLING! REALITY IS A POISONOUS ILLUSION! Or maybe it's fine.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: 9 ⅛ inches. You forgot Mason Rudolph existed until you read this. Now you have issues with him as a prospect. That's the miracle of Quarterback Hand Size Day
Merry Quarterback Hand Size Day to all, and to all a good Offensive Lineman 40-Time Eve!