Numbers Game

By Adam Caparell - January 23, 2007

MOBILE, Ala. – I have yet to hear a player here at the Senior Bowl say he isn’t having a great time. There’s no school to think about and it’s all football while getting treated to Under Armour swag, catered meals and police escorts from Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“You’ve been in college doing the same thing for four years and it’s kind of cool to do something a little bit different,” USC center Ryan Kalil said.

Some of the players are even getting a little star struck.

“It’s crazy seeing some of the coaches here you always see on TV,” Colorado kicker Mason Crosby said. “It’s cool to just be here.”

Day 2 of Senior Bowl week featured a morning practice session for the North and an afternoon session for the South.

The North’s practice ran right up to 11:45 am with coach Jon Gruden getting on his players until the final horn went off.

The South’s practice wrapped up a little earlier than schedule – at least 15 minutes ahead of time it seemed like – but that may very well have been due to the weather. It was surprisingly cold down here. Temperatures where hovering in the high 40s throughout the city Tuesday and people were shivering in the stands and on the sidelines.

Tuesday’s intensity level certainly didn’t seem to be lacking. The respective NFL coaching staffs were pushing the players (Tampa Bay with the North and San Francisco with the South) and we even saw a few bonding moments like 49ers running backs coach Bishop Harris sending off his group of South RBs for the day with a joke that had Kenny Irons, Lorenzo Booker and a few others in stitches.

The players looked like they wanted to hit and dish out a little punishment. There were a few extra nudges and shoves - but nothing dirty or out of line - during running and passing drills toward the end of practice. I think the players are just antsy to get back to real game aciton.

Funniest observations about Senior Bowl week so far: the coaches don’t know the players names.

You can forgive them for that. They’re predictably a little more concerned with their own teams during the season and rarely get a chance to see much college football.

Both Gruden and San Francisco coach Mike Nolan referred to the majority of the players by numbers, most especially Nolan.

“No. 12. Okay, school? Florida, national champions. Quarterback, right?” Nolan joked when asked a question about Chris Leak.

The Senior Bowl won’t kickoff until Saturday and with so many players coming from different offensive and defensive systems it’s been a challenge to learn something entirely different in just a few days.

Especially for guys from more unconventional NFL systems like Dan Mozes of West Virginia and Manny Ramirez of Texas Tech, both offensive linemen and both recipients of an NFL offensive crash course.

“The first day was kind of rusty,” Ramirez said. “I’m just trying to pick up this offense as fast as possible.”

“Doing things in our offense and then coming here and doing something totally different, you have to learn on the run,” Mozes said. “It’s only a week. It’s difficult, but at the same time fun.”

Add the drastic change in game planning to the fact that they're facing some of the best players in college football makes this week all the more challenging, but it's a test Ramirez is relishing.

“It’s very tough,” Ramirez said. “You know that they’re either as good as you or probably even better than you at times. You just have to set your mind to get in there and go no matter who it is. And just knowing when you’re going up against the best there is and you dominate, it’s feels great.”

Ramirez – who’s been told he could land anywhere from the late second round to the fourth round – figures to have many more days like that in the future.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 08:54 PM on January 23, 2007

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