Day two of my Senior Bowl week started at 5 AM. Did it need to start so early? Probably not but I thought I knew where the NFL gets its coffee in Mobile and I wanted to plant myself in the coffee shop and see what happened. It opened at 6:00 AM, I arrived at 6:02 and at least 10 people, all wearing various NFL team hats and jackets, were already inside, in line waiting to order. I took my coffee and banana nut muffin and sat down. For the next hour or so NFL scouts and assistant coaches poured in. I didn’t recognize anyone but some Colts gear made its way through the line. The masks make identifying people that aren’t super well known, really difficult.
I was right, I found the coffee spot, but nothing of note happened. I’ll keep coming back every morning but I’m not confident I’m going to see anything more than a steady line of eager young scouts and coaches who are just looking for their caffeine fix to jump start the day. Consider this your daily coffee shop update.
After my time in the coffee shop and not being able to recognize anyone I decided I should head back to my hotel to do my homework on the Colts scouting staff. I wanted to print some sort of roster, complete with pictures so I would at least have an idea of who I was looking at when I see someone wearing something with a horseshoe on it. So off to the business center of the Hilton Garden Inn I went.
As I was getting everything set up I heard two people in the lobby that had no idea anyone was tucked away just around the corner in the business center. The conversation started off cordially, catching up on each others family but soon it became apparent that the two men speaking to each other weren’t just random people in a hotel lobby, these guys knew stuff. The kind of stuff that gets Adam Schefter’s attention.
It took a couple minutes of listening to figure out who one of the men was (I was out of their line of sight, just listening to the conversation, had I been able to see them and them me, the conversation never would have happened) but I almost lost my mind when I figured it out.
Turns out, I’m staying in the same hotel as Drew Rosenhaus.
So what did I learn?
Overheard conversations in Mobile: The #Colts hope to keep Al-Quadin Muhammad but they feel they have a lot of depth at the position. Will depend on the market.— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) January 26, 2021
In hindsight this seems more like Rosenhaus trying to sell his guy to another team (the Bengals) who needs help on the defensive line. After Drew told him this he said “You know he’s done some good things for them, up there” so the more I’ve thought about it the more I think Rosenhaus was lying to generate some interest for Al-Quadin Muhammad.
They went on to talk about an offensive linemen that Rosenhaus said he was going to be looking in the $10 million per year range for. I couldn’t make out who he was talking about as someone decided to use a vacuum cleaner at that exact moment.
This is the only other useful piece of information I gathered from the exchange:
According to a very famous NFL agent who likes to have loud conversations in hotel lobbies the following Pro Days will happen on the following days:— Chris Shepherd (@NFLscheme) January 27, 2021
University of Miami: 3/19/21
Virginia Tech: 3/26/21#NFLDraft #proday#TheDraftStartsInMobile
The best I can tell none of these dates have been released publically, so I guess I’m officially breaking news. It’s not news that’s going to change anyone’s life but it’s what I’ve got, so you’ll have to take it.
After I had printed my papers and listened to all of Drew Rosenhaus’ conversation I packed up my things and decided it was time to head to the stadium to pick up my credential and watch the first practice of 2021.
I arrived to Hancock Whitney Stadium around 45 minutes before the first practice was scheduled to begin. I drove to the south entrance, where I was told I could pick up my credentials, only once again no one was there.
So I went back down to the North end of the stadium, parked and talked to the first guy I could find who was wearing a polo and had a two way radio clipped to his belt. Before I even got a word out he said “I bet you’re here for a credential?”
Long story short; the Senior Bowl really dropped the ball today.
From their perspective, they were put in a pretty tough situation with the ever changing weather.
From the perspective of literally everyone else; they really dropped the ball today.
For the next hour and a half I stood outside of gate one waiting for someone from Senior Bowl headquarters to bring the box of credentials from the hotel to the stadium. It’s a 30 minute drive but I guess they just weren’t in a hurry. Some of you might be thinking, “so what, a writer from Stampede Blue couldn’t get in” and I get it but it wasn’t just me. I was standing next to Albert Breer and another really nice guy from Sports Illustrated and they couldn’t get in either. Behind me were more than a handful of player agents and I spent about 20 minutes talking to two scouts from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Obviously a CFL team). Then there were the 30 to 40 other media members that I didn’t recognize (but a few looked really familiar behind their masks).
We all missed the first 45 minutes of the first practice. The media guys and the agents will probably all survive but the CFL scouts, those guys jobs depend on seeing these practices and even though they can watch the film later, small details are inevitably lost when you aren’t watching an event live, in person.
Life and practice goes on.
The first practice wrapped up and Matt Rhule brought his team onto the field. Rhule’s practice started out at a breakneck pace. These guys had never lined up next to each other but Rhule had them start the practice with an 11 on 11 scrimmage.
Before the first snap a member of his coaching staff apparently asked a dumb question because Rhule forgot, for just a second, that people were watching.
“WE DO IT JUST LIKE WE ALWAYS FU... (when he glanced into the stands with a look of realization on his face) do it.”
I assume the assistant coach didn’t think this group of guys could hang with the pace Rhule was going to want to go, Rhule disagreed.
I have to say given the complete lack of experience these guys had playing with each other, the offense did quite well. Outside of far too many false starts and plays stopped due to guys jumping off sides, things went great. Rhule stopped the QB a couple times to make him fix the play.
“You’ve got a loaded box, get these guys in the right position”
I took this more of an indictment of the quarterback play than anything else. Spoiler alert: the QB play at the 2021 Senior Bowl is not especially great... those CFL scouts I talked to are probably going to have a shot to sign a couple of the quarterbacks here in Mobile. After an hour of practice I noticed that it was starting to cool off and quickly. Not long after this realization, the rain started to fall.
Part of the reason for the day’s initial mixup and subsequent delay, was due to moving the practice indoors because of early morning rain, which canceled media access for the practice, only to have the sun come out and the Dolphins coaches make the executive request (apparently they needed permission to actually move practice back even though they were already in the process of moving back to the stadium before they bothered to ask. I know this because of the guy I found with the walkie-talkie, those guys know everything).
A few minutes before the rain started to come down, I reached into my bag and pulled out my waterproof jacket that I pack for every trip. Once the rain started I put everything in my bag, slid it under my seat, put up my hood and enjoyed the rest of practice while all but a handful of people left the stadium in an effort to stay dry.
My legs got wet but my boots kept my feet dry, my seat was dry and most of the rest of me was pretty dry as well. I was a happy camper and it felt like I was watching a private viewing of a college all-star practice, and life just doesn’t get much better than that.
As practice ended, on cue, the rain stopped. I took my time walking out of the stadium. I just wanted to watch the players who decided to stay on the field to get more work in. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones spent 25 minutes working with a center on their snap exchange. There were several fumbles on the day but Jones and the center worked until they felt like they were on the same page before jogging off the field.
After practice I drove back to my hotel, starving having not eaten anything since my muffin in the coffee shop, I grabbed dinner and my laptop and I’ve been in front of the screen writing or watching film since I got back.
Today was a good day.
I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, I can’t even begin to guess what I might stumble upon the rest of the week. And yes, I’m going to try my best to ask someone about Matthew Stafford. I don’t expect to get any useable info but we all want to know. Maybe I’ll bump into Chris Ballard tomorrow.
Normally that would be a silly thing to write, but in Mobile, during Senior Bowl week nothing seems impossible.