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Combing the Combine: Friday's notes

Day two of the NFL Combine is going strong and has all the news and notes including more running backs the Patriots are talking with.

The second day of the NFL Scouting Combine kicked off early with a breakfast and panel discussion sponsored by Reebok. NFL Network analyst Rich Eisen moderated the discussion that featured Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, Steelers tight end Heath Miller, former Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel Gil Brandt and Reebok's Vice President of Team Properties Eddie White.

The panel members shared insights on the Scouting Combine experience from rookie players, team executives and corporate sponsors.

Brown, whose draft stock soared after the Combine last season, enjoyed going through the entire process.

"It was exciting for me," Brown said. "Fortunately I came in and had a good workout and that help propel me to the No. 2 pick in the draft."

Brandt - who is credited as one of the people who helped shape the Scouting Combine the NFL has today and still has a lot to do with it - says Brown is a good example of how the Combine can help a player improve their draft stock.

"Brown ran under a 4.4 last year and that 40-yard dash probably made him $10 million," Brandt said. "He was projected to go in the middle of the first round but after his performance at the Combine, he jumped all the way up to the second pick."

Miller, who was recovering from a sports hernia at this time last year, had a different experience at the Combine.

"I wasn't able to work out here and some teams had concerns about my injury," Miller said. "It turned out to be a blessing in disguise though because I fell in the draft and was selected by the Steelers. I think everything worked out for the best."

For White, the Combine is a way for Reebok to promote its products and get a look at the new crop of NFL stars.

"This is a way for us to see the future of the NFL," White said. "The Combine has taking on a life of its own. Reebok has an exclusive association with the NFL and this is a great way to promote everything our company has to offer."

Still talking running backs

A day after a number of running back prospects admitted they spoke with representatives from the Patriots, three more backs - Mississippi State's Jerious Norwood (5'11, 210 pounds), Florida State's Leon Washington (5'7, 201 pounds) and New Mexico's Dontrell Moore (5'10, 210 pounds) - said Friday that they too have had contact with the Patriots over the past couple of days.

Norwood played on one of the college footballs worst passing offenses during his career at Mississippi State but he still managed to post over 1,000 yards rushing in back-to-back seasons. Norwood could be a real sleeper in this year's draft because he's been productive against top competition despite not playing with a strong supporting cast.

"Some teams are looking at me as a third down back," Norwood said. "Carrying the ball as many times as I did at Mississippi State, I think that shows my durability and that I can be an every down back in the NFL."

The diminutive Washington was named the Florida Player of the Year as a high school senior but didn't live up to his billing at Florida State. However, he's still confident he can succeed at the pro level.

"I spoke to the Patriots last night," Washington said. "Some teams I've talked to want me to come in and contribute right away on special teams and as a third down back. I'm positive I can step right in for a team and help them as a rookie."

Moore is one of the most productive backs to ever play college football. He's the only running back in NCAA history to rush for over 1,000 yards in four consecutive years. Even though he's used to being the primary ball carrier, Moore said he has no problem stepping out of the spotlight if a team like the Patriots drafts him.

"Being a backup is something I'm more than willing to do if that's the role I'm thrown into," Moore said. "I would go into a situation where there's a guy like Corey Dillon who I can learn from and that's great. If I start my career off as a backup I'll embrace that, keep trying to get better and push for the starting job."

Talking the talk

There was a long list of speakers during day two of the Combine. Head coaches Tom Coughlin (Giants), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Scott Linehan (Rams), Jeff Fisher (Titans), Brad Childress (Vikings), Mike McCarthy (Packers), Rod Marinelli (Lions) and Gary Kubiak (Texans) all addressed the media on Friday, as did Packers General Manger Ted Thompson and National Football Scouting Executive Director Jeff Foster.


USC running back LenDale White said he hasn't spoken to any teams yet but did compare himself to Corey Dillon because they're both bigger running backs who run hard...Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney said he had interviews scheduled with the Colts, Rams and Vikings but didn't mention the Patriots...It's easy to see why people are falling in love with Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler. He showed in his interview on Friday that he has a great personality and he seemed almost mad that the other top quarterbacks in this year's class weren't taking part in the workouts with him. When asked if the money would change the down-to-earth Cutler, he responded, "I don't know. We'll find out soon, won't we?"...USC quarterback Matt Leinart believes his biggest strength is that he's a winner, much like Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. "I'm a Tom Brady-type," Leinart said. "I just win."...Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom drew a large gathering of media members. Bloom said he expects any team that drafts him to put a special clause in his contract that restricts him from skiing. When asked if he was okay with that, the 173-pound Bloom said, "Yeah, I think(Kellen) Winslow took care of that."...Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall made a cameo on Friday. A self-professed "Football Junkie," Hall said he goes wherever there's anything going on regarding football. Hall really likes this year's cornerback class, thinks Ohio State's Santonio Holmes is the best receiver coming out of college and Randy Moss is the toughest receiver he's had to cover since entering the NFL. "Everything comes to him so naturally," Hall said. "That's why I think he's the best receiver in the league."

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