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NFL teams cram for Combine

Posted Feb 21, 2012

SAN DIEGO – Excluding the 1972 Miami Dolphins, no NFL team is perfect.

The draft offers all 32 franchises a chance to address flaws. Thus, each draft is “important.”

But with San Diego desperate to return to postseason and publicly eager to improve its roster, the Chargers’ personnel department understands the gravitas of the 2012 version.

“I think overall it’s just an important year after missing the playoffs the last two years, which has been a disappointment for everybody,” director of player personnel Jimmy Raye said. “It’s a big draft for us.

“We want to make sure we hit on all the guys that we do end up drafting in April. We want to be as thorough as we possibly can. I think it’s important for us to continue to improve our talent base and the best way to do that is to start with the draft.

“There are other avenues to acquire players, but we need to have a good handle on the players coming out of this Combine in particular so we can pick the best Chargers.”

San Diego’s scouts met in the draft room at Chargers Park all week in what amounted to a group cram session for the Combine, staged at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Feb. 22-28.

The 328 invited players won’t put on pads, line up and play football. Scouts must derive those evaluations from game tape, in-season visits and all-star events such as the Senior Bowl.

The Combine is an opportunity to check for vital signs – height, weight, strength, speed and explosion. You’re not going to find out if a guy can play football, but you are going to find out if a guy has NFL-caliber athleticism.

It also serves as a partial job interview. Teams pepper prospects with questions. Players watch and analyze video. Doctors poke and prod, investigating reams of medical data. Teams monitor drills for specific and pre-planned details.

All of those tasks take preparation, and Raye called the week’s meetings the scout’s version of minicamp.

“We refresh ourselves and talk through all the Combine guys and see what interesting things about each player we need to know before we go to Indianapolis,” Raye said. “We make sure we’re doing a good, in-depth, thorough search of all these players so we can maximize our time when we go to Indy.”

Each team leaves wiggle room in their draft rankings entering the Combine, though a few days in shorts and T-shirts won’t outweigh months of game film. The event marks a juncture as teams begin full-fledged draft preparations, shifting from evaluating players to fine-tuning rankings and strategy.

Pro days will add to the dossier of information, but the Combine becomes a chunk of these player’s resumes.

“This gives us a good platform to evaluate players athletically and skill-wise even though they’re in shorts and T-shirts. You still get to see a lot of things that maybe you don’t get to see on tape,” director of college scouting John Spanos said. “All the information we’re able to get medically, mentally throughout the various testing they do and from the 1-on-1 interviews is extremely beneficial.

“You don’t have access to them this hands-on during the season, so that’s really the big benefit.”

FIELD TRIP: Students from Francis Parker School toured Chargers Park on Thursday and spoke with executive vice president of football operations – assistant general manager Ed McGuire.

Two teachers and 18 students from the K-12 preparatory school’s sports management interim course got first-hand insight into an NFL front office and planned to meet with other sports business professionals as well.

STAY ACTIVE: Former San Diego defensive back Venice Glenn and two Charger Girls visited Cajon Park School on Thursday as part of the NFL’s Play 60 campaign in Santee.

The Chargers contingent talked with students about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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