Saturday's combine observations


INDIANAPOLIS -- When the NFL scouting combine moved to Lucas Oil Stadium, that's when the days of the historic news conference began.

Though there have been many great news conferences in Indianapolis through the years, three stand out as the best.

Tim Tebow wowed everyone with his answers and his presence when he entered the NFL. Tebow was a college legend whose game unfortunately didn't translate to the NFL. Last year's Manti Te'o news conference was as anticipated as any but in some ways, Te'o's answers didn't completely win over everyone. I'd have to rank Michael Sam's news conference as maybe the second best I've been around.

For history, it was probably the most important. Sam recently announced he was gay, making him the first openly gay NFL draft prospect. Though there was some tension in the room, Sam performed well. When Sam went public with his announcement, he sounded secure and confident in how he will face the questions in the future. Asked if he feels like a trailblazer, Sam said, "A trailblazer? I feel like I'm Michael Sam."

To his credit, his answers were consistent and strong. "I didn't have any doubts,'' Sam said. "I just wanted to get my story out before anyone else said or told it and then I'm going to continue on with my life and try to prepare myself for football.''

Here is what we learned at Saturday's combine:

1. Sam can now take a day or two to concentrate on his measurables and football: With his news conference out of the way, Sam can now do his interviews with teams and concentrate on having a good workout Monday. But until he plays a preseason or regular-season game, Sam has to deal with questions about his announcement.

Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome made a great point Saturday. He said locker rooms adjust but sometimes it takes the media a longer time to adjust and move on from a situation. He's right. The media ask questions until another topic creates new areas for questioning. As we found out with the Te'o catfishing story last year, the questioning didn't change until he started playing games.

On Monday, Sam can focus on running his 40 and doing his drills. Entering the combine, he's rated between the third and fifth rounds. He's pretty defined on what he is as a football player.

"My specialty is rushing the passer," he said.

He needs to do two things well Monday: He needs to run a 40 time under 4.65 to justify being a mid-round choice. If he could do a 4.59, he might sneak into the third round. To reinforce his draft stock, he needs to do well in the cone drills to show his elusive athletic ability.

Nevertheless, Saturday was a successful day for Sam.

2. The offensive linemen lived up to their billing: This bodes well for teams needing blocking help.  Jake Matthews of Texas A&M, Greg Robinson of Auburn and Taylor Lewan of Michigan are considered the three best tackles in the draft. All rate as top 10 picks. Their stocks all went up with their performances in the combine.

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