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Draft needs undecided as Combine starts

Posted Feb 23, 2012

Impending free agency will give clarity to San Diego’s draft needs. While the team evaluates prospects at the Combine, General Manager A.J. Smith continues to await decisions from some of the Chargers’ own free agents, but wants players like Nick Hardwick and Vincent Jackson back in the fold.

INDIANAPOLIS – If you’ve ever watched a painting TV show, there’s a moment where a sketch of random colors and lines begins to resemble an actual picture.

The Chargers are on the cusp of that moment in their roster planning, but it likely won’t come this week.

Free agent moves will begin ahead of the March 13 date as teams release players or sign their own free agents to new contracts.

“We’ve got an awful lot of issues to go over,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “I know a lot of people, particularly fans back home in San Diego, want to know what the team is for 2012. It’s a little bit early for that right now.”

The offensive line remains a focus, Smith told Sirius Radio on Thursday at the Combine. The Chargers will pursue free agent center Nick Hardwick, who recently said he will not retire this year.

Smith told the radio audience the Chargers will speak with Kris Dielman to inquire about his future in football soon after the Combine. And of Marcus McNeill, Smith noted “we’re working our way through” medical issues.

Vincent Jackson, a Pro Bowl receiver, also is a free agent. It’s unlikely the Chargers will use the franchise tag on Jackson for a second consecutive year because the price might prohibit the team from addressing other needs, Smith said.

“We’d love to have him back,” Smith said of Jackson. “(He) is outstanding. There’s no question about that.

“He’s had some issues in the past. I’m comfortable with where we are now. We’ll see where it goes. He’s on the open market now.”

San Diego may have a notion of what’s going to happen, but will collect information at the Combine without regard for a specific draft need.

“Once free agency plays out, you see who you’ve added if anyone, who you’ve kept of your current players and that gives you a better idea going into the draft of what your exact needs are,” director of college scouting John Spanos said in Indianapolis.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: Georgia punter Drew Butler can make NFL history if he lands with an NFL team.

Butler won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter in 2012 and averaged 45.5 yards during his college career. His father, Kevin Butler, had a 13-year NFL career as a placekicker.

The Butlers would become the second father-son NFL kicking specialist combo in league history. English placekickers Bobby and Ian Howfield accomplished the feat in 1991.

ALMOST PERFECT ATTENDANCE EXPECTED: Three hundred twenty-seven players are expected to participate in the 2012 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Only one of the invited athletes will not participate. 

Florida receiver Jeff Demps has opted to forgo the Combine to train for the Olympics. 

Demps, a two-sport athlete at Florida, scored 23 touchdowns for the Gators and won two NCAA indoor championships in the 60-meter dash. His personal best in the 100-meter dash is 10.01 seconds, but he plans to drop more than 15 pounds from his football weight and is expected to compete for an Olympic spot.

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