INDIANAPOLIS – Quarterbacks are always an interesting group to watch in the months leading up to the draft. With the importance of the position in the NFL the top passing prospects each year seemingly automatically earn consideration for the No. 1 overall selection. As such, Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan (6-4, 228) is in Indy this week working to not only solidify his projected spot as the top passer in the draft but to also make a run at earning the very lucrative call as the draft's first overall selection.
"It's exciting to be mentioned in that light, but for me, I just hope somebody gives me an opportunity to go in and compete and help try to make an organization a winner," Ryan responded diplomatically of potentially being the top pick. "It doesn't really matter what number pick that is, as long as someone gives me a chance."
To work toward that chance Ryan is going to run at the Combine, but will hold off on his throwing work until B.C.'s Pro Day on March 18.
"For me, I want to portray to the teams that are going to be looking at my skills in an accurate representation of what it would be like in a game situation," Ryan said of waiting to throw. "I want to throw to the guys I know and give the teams a chance to look at what I'm capable of doing."
Ryan also answered questions about one of the negatives being attached to him at this point in the process – the 19 interceptions he threw last fall.
"As a quarterback, you never want to turn the football over. We did that a good amount this year, but when you're aggressive with the football sometimes mistakes are going to happen," Ryan said. "I thought we were very aggressive as a team this year and we ended up turning the football over, but at the same time we scored a lot of points and we were competitive and won a lot of games. Ultimately, I think that wins are the most significant stat. But no question about it. I've got to work on that, improve, turn the ball over less if you want to be a successful quarterback in the NFL."
And while playing his college ball in New England, one thing Ryan has done in an effort to improve himself moving forward is observe the reigning football star of the region. He's never met Tom Brady, but that doesn't mean the NFL MVP hasn't had an influence on Ryan.
"I've never spoken to Tom. But I saw him heavily while I was up at BC. I think it would be foolish not to, because I really feel he does things the right way," Ryan said. "He prepares hard, handles himself well with the media, and he shows up and performs on Sundays. I tried to take notes of that during my time at BC, and I have a lot of respect for what he does."
And come April Ryan is hoping to do something that the three-time Super Bowl winner Brady was not able to do, hear his name called very early on draft weekend.
Samuel's sights are set on free agencyThe agent for Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel isn't closing the door on any pre-free agency negotiations with New England, but at this point it's pretty clear the All-Pro is going to hit the open market Feb. 29.
"We've never eliminated the Patriots as an opportunity," Alonzo Shavers said Friday at the Combine. "We'll kind of let the chips fall where they may when it comes to that decision making process. But as things hit and as things get closer I don't think we're in a situation where we need to rush into anything one way or the other. I think we waited this long to get an opportunity to see how things are and we put our selves in the situation where we can go out and see how things are. New England for that matter agreed to the terms that wouldn't lock him up for another year.
"So I think everybody is on the same page with what's getting ready to take place or how it's taking place. I think everybody is happy with it one way or the other. There is no ill content with New England and I don't think there's any ill content from New England with us. We're just kind of letting the chips fall where they may, evaluating this day by day and seeing how things shake out."
Boston fashion statementTexas tight end Jermichael Finley wore a Red Sox hat to his Thursday meeting with the media at the Combine. But he revealed the hat choice was nothing more than a fashionable piece of attire.
"It's really just the color; it matches what I have on," Finley told curious reporters. "It was in my bag and I just put it on this morning. I'm not a fan of the Boston Red Sox. I just picked this off the shelf at the store because of the color."
Basketball diariesTennessee quarterback Erik Ainge comes from a basketball family, including uncle and Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations and General Manager Danny Ainge. But the Volunteers passer realized at some point that football, not basketball, was his athletic ticket to success.
"Obviously I'm from a big basketball family. I figure there's less 6-6 quarterbacks than there are shooting guards with average hops and OK defense," Ainge said. "I can still shoot it though."
So when exactly did Ainge realize this hoop skills didn't measure up? Interestingly a couple players who would eventually end up playing for the Celtics helped Ainge make the decision.
"Going into my senior year of high school, I played AAU ball all over the country and had to guard Sebastian Telfair and had to play against Al Jefferson and couldn't guard some of the guys that were at the elite level, and that's when I decided to play football or baseball," Ainge said. "I ended up choosing football."
Hobbs has a friend
One of the bigger wide receivers at the Combine is Iowa State's Todd Blythe (6-5, 214). Blythe is an intriguing prospect in that he's got the size and in his mind he has the speed. He said teams have told him he could go anywhere in rounds three through six, but those projections are based on the 4.6 40 he's run in the past. Blythe says he's been running 4.47 and 4.48 in workouts of late. If he does that here in Indy, he would really help his stock. Blythe has spoken with the Patriots.
"They have a big wideout right now. If they need another one, they can come calling early," Blythe said with a smile. "But yeah I talked to them quite a bit at the East West Game."
Blythe is also still very friendly with former Iowa State teammate and current Patriots cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
"I played with him for two years. He's a guy, I have his number in my phone. I know I can call him up whenever I want. I've talked to him throughout the season at different times since he's taken off and had success in the NFL. He's a great resource for me to help me out," Blythe said of Hobbs. "We had our battles. He kind of welcomed me in when I was a freshman. He was a junior. When I first got there. He kind of welcomed me in a couple times and stuck me. He's pretty strong. When I came in I was about 185 pounds. But I'd love to go against him again, that's for sure."
Blythe was actually in Giants country working out when he watched the Super Bowl XLII efforts of his friend and former teammate.
"I loved how the game was in the middle when he had his interception," Blythe said. "I've been training in New Jersey. I think I was the only guy in the place that went crazy when he got his pick. They about kicked me out of the place. But at the end of the game (allowing the game-winning touchdown), that's part of being a football player. He'll bounce back. He's a competitor and he'll be just fine."
A Colt becoming a Patriot?
Colt Brennan (6-2, 207), Hawaii's record-breaking quarterback, is a player the Patriots could be interested in, particularly if he falls out of the first round or two. When asked about the possibility of playing for New England, Brennan said Friday, "I'm just excited for an opportunity to go anywhere. I'm looking for a coaching staff that sees me as their potential starter down the road. Obviously, I want to go somewhere where I can start soon. At the same time, if I got an opportunity to go there [to New England], then obviously I can learn from a guy like Tom Brady. In a lot of ways, that would make me a lot better quarterback. I've learned these last couple of years, it's all in God's hands and to take what you're given. So, if that's what I'm given, I'm going to make the best of it."
Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, the former Patriots defensive coordinator, addressed the assembled media at the Combine Friday. During his time at the podium, he wasn't asked about the latest Spygate developments, nor about the prospects of free-agent-to-be Samuel. As he left, however, several New England-area reporters sought him out for his thoughts.
"I never saw anything like that. All we did was coach football and win football games," Crennel asserted. "And the commissioner, he's taken care of it. The league's investigating it, and if he's found anything, he would have taken action. He hasn't taken any action, so that implies that there's nothing wrong. So, we just coach football."
As for Samuel, Crennel indicated his Browns might be interested in considering Samuel's asking price if the cornerback chooses not to re-sign with New England.
The NFL held a coin toss Friday morning to break a tie between three teams for the third, fourth and fifth picks in April's draft. Atlanta won the toss with a call of heads and therefore earned the No. 3 selection, while Oakland will pick fourth and Kansas City fifth. … Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, who transferred from Pittsburgh, doesn't think the fact that he played at a lower level of competition should play much of a role in his draft projection. "I think if you can play, you can play." … Green Bay General Manager Ted Thompson was asked during his press conference at the Combine if the guessing game on draft day is harder picking late in the first round. "Those of us in the profession don't like to refer to it as a guessing game, but I get your point," Thompson responded with a smile. … Texas receiver Limas Sweed's father was a minister and didn't care much for sports. Sweed said his mother was the sports fan in the family, and that he grew up thinking he'd play basketball ... Dexter Jackson, the Appalachian State receiver who ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated following his team's upset of Michigan last fall, said he's not concerned about SI's infamous cover jinx. "No sir," he replied with a smile to a reporter's question on the topic. "Hopefully, I took care of that." … LSU's Early Doucet was asked about the origin of his unique first name. "I'm actually Early the third," he revealed. "So, my grandfather and my dad had the name before me." … Andre "Bubba" Caldwell said he wasn't surprised the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII. "The Patriots are a good team, but the Giants are also good. The best team won that Sunday." … Division III Mount Union has a player at the Combine: receiver Pierre Garcon, who once spent time at a military academy. "I was a civilian. I decided that wasn't the best fit for me," he quipped … Kicker Shane Longest is the first player in Chicago's St. Xavier University history to be invited to the Combine.