Day 4: Stuck between Indy and SFO

I was going to hold off on writing an NFL combine recap until Monday. But here I am, stuck for a while at Chicago‘s Midway. I see my flight has been delayed THREE hours. I’m not scheduled to arrive back in the Bay Area around 2 a.m., so thank goodness there’s a Harry Caray’s next to my gate.

On the first night I was in Indianapolis, I wanted to find a bar downtown that had ESPNU, so I could watch the Saint Mary’s-San Diego basketball game. (Some of the other reporters were amused I made that a huge priority to my night’s plans. Then, I flashed my Gaels season-ticket holder card and they understood.)


I watched the first half of the game intently. Then, many of the scouts, coaches and executives who were taking part in player interviews that evening began flooding into the joint. I barely watched two minutes of the second half, as my focus shifted back to football.


With :23 remaining and the Gaels up by three points, the TVs were shut off. It was time to go back to the hotel. I wasn’t pleased with the timing, but I had found my hangout for the next two evenings.


Here’s some of the buzz gathered from around town  . . .


–The first thing you need to know about the NFL combine: The reporters who “cover” this event know far less about what’s going on at the workouts than the people watching it on TV. So, please, fill me in on everything I missed. For instance, I agree with Drew’s observation about Boise‘s Ian Johnson. His 40 time was a pleasant surprise. He helped himself immensely.


–My guy, Fresno QB Tom Brandstater, was very, very impressive. But one keen observer told me that I shouldn’t have been surprised. Brandstater has all the tools, but he does not always carry over that physical talent into games.


–Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell was not impressive at the Senior Bowl, and he was extremely shaky today, too. Wonder if he’ll even get drafted.


–It was scary to see Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin go down in a heap when his foot caught in the turf while trying to adjust on a poorly thrown pass from QB Jason Boltus of Hardwick. But 10 minutes later he ran a slant-and-go route, though he was hobbling noticeable. A night or two earlier, one NFL type suggested Maclin’s build might lead to durability concerns.


–I wrote recently that I didn’t think the 49ers were viewing Dashon Goldson as a starter at free safety. Now, I think I was dead wrong on that one. I have every reason to believe GM Scot McCloughan was subtly referring to Goldson when he talked about there being a very good chance the starting free safety is currently on the team. The 49ers might look at adding safety, but I don’t think they’ll go after Tampa‘s Jermaine Phillips or Cleveland‘s Sean Jones.


–The price of tackles is going through the roof with Vernon Carey getting a deal averaging $7 million annually from the Dolphins. While the 49ers might be interested in a tackle, such as Pittsburgh’s Marvel Smith or Jacksonville’s Khalif Barnes, I don’t know if they have the stomach to remain in the picture if the price starts escalating – and I suspect it will.


–Mostly did the chain thing for dinners in Indy, but went back to Iaria’s – a classic old-school Italian place I frequent every time I’m in town. It did not disappoint.


–Punter Andy Lee has outkicked his coverage. The Raiders’ Shane Lechler signed a deal last week that averages $4 million a season. In March 2007, the 49ers matched the Steelers offer sheet on Lee that pays him $1.183 million a year. Now, Lee’s representation wants a new deal from the 49ers. And the 49ers never even negotiated the deal in the first place – the Steelers did.


–Everybody has an opinion about Mike Martz – good or bad. And I heard plenty of both this weekend. I will say this, the people who know him very well and have coached with him absolutely swear by the man. Heck, Bill Belichick had some very kind words for him earlier today. Belichick had this to say about Martz and Jim Haslett: “As a coach, it’s a little bit of an empty feeling to see people like that not in the game. Much as I don’t want to compete against them, they deserve to be at this level. They’re great coaches. Mike Martz has had a tremendous offensive career. So has Jim on the defensive side of the ball as well as being a head coach. Maybe you have to ask the people who are doing the hiring.” I agree that the NFL isn’t quite as fun without Martz involved in some capacity.


–The 49ers are in need of a fullback. Might they go after Seattle‘s Leonard Weaver? He’s young and has many good years ahead of him. Those in the know say Weaver does not fit what Jimmy Raye and Mike Singletary (or is it Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye?) want to do with the offense. Weaver would’ve been a better fit for Martz’s scheme. The 49ers this offseason will be looking for a thumper – you know, somebody like that guy they had in 2007 when Frank Gore rushed for nearly 1,700 yards. What was that guy’s name? Oh, yeah, Moran Norris.


–DeShaun Foster and Bryant Johnson will not be back with the 49ers.


–Ronald Fields might get some action on the free-agent market because of the dearth of nose tackles (not named Albert Haynesworth) who are available.


–Who do the Raiders take at No. 7? It’s a pick that could impact the 49ers. More than one person’s opinion: Al Davis likes speed-burners at wideout, so he might not be smitten with Michael Crabtree. And does Al Davis really care that Alabama tackle Andre Smith left the combine unannounced? Probably not.


–Reading between the lines in speaking with Singletary, it does not sound as if the 49ers have any intention on signing a free agent to compete with Shaun Hill and Alex Smith for the starting QB job. Also, taking a quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick seems to be out of the question. Why? The 49ers will take the highest-rated player on their draft board at No. 10. And that player is (probably) not going to be a quarterback.


–Offensive tackle at No. 10? Perhaps. I know he is not considered one of the top three, but Michael Oher deserves to be mentioned in that sentence. He is an impressive athlete. If you haven’t read Michael Lewis’ book, “The Blind Side: The Evolution of a Game,” do yourself a favor. The question being asked is if Oher has been spoiled the past six years after a tremendously difficult upbringing.


–As a reference point . . .

a report is when reliable source(s) are cited in a news story;

a rumor is when something is heard, usually second or third hand. There might be a truth to it, but a reporter would never stake his reputation on it;

speculation is when nobody has said a word but somebody takes a guess.


–Report: A couple weeks ago, I filed an article that Jonas Jennings is expected to be released this offseason.


–Rumor: The 49ers offered the O.C. job to Scott Linehan, Dan Reeves and Rob Chudzinkski before Singletary found the mutual union with Raye. (By the way, I loved my one-on-one chat with Mr. Raye. He is a fascinating man. I’ll be writing more about his background in the near future.)


–Any time you’ve read that the 49ers may have interest in Michael Vick, it has been speculation. Am I partly responsible? Yes. I wrote in Tuesday’s paper that Singletary declined to rule out the possibility of Vick joining the team. However, when I contacted the organization the next day, the club’s official stance is there is ZERO interest.


–Sleeper pick at No. 10 – and this is just a guess (speculation) – USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. OK, this goes against my personal theory, but – believe it or not — the 49ers do not share my opinion of inside linebackers. I think if you have a guy like Patrick Willis, you just get a dirty-work guy next to him. But the 49ers loved Jerrod Mayo last year, and they never found that long-term answer at the “ted” position. Maualuga has an incredibly high football IQ – he took it upon himself to soak in all of Pete Carroll’s coaching. Plus, I’m partial to Maualuga because he played high-school ball for one of the most memorable coaches I’ve ever covered: Eureka High’s Jack Lakin. Ah, those were the days.


–Well, I’m getting kicked out of Harry Caray’s. (Unless I start trying to pronounce names spelled backward.) Maybe I’ll go join Facebook, like my brother has been lobbying me to do for the past month.


–I’m hoping to be in my own bed in seven hours.


–Tune in to the KNBR Morning Show with Murph and Mac on Monday at 8 a.m. I’ll be rested and ready to entertain.


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