Peter King’s Football Morning In America – 2022 NFL Combine – NBC Sports – NBC Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — “I don’t know why I did it,” Aidan Hutchinson said Saturday night after his NFL Scouting Combine workout, sitting in his room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a few long spirals from Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I just DM’d Mel Kiper.”

Hutchinson was recalling a spring day in Ann Arbor in his sophomore year, May 2020. He was 19. He was full of himself, as many 19-year-olds are. He was all into his football life, coming off a nice sophomore season on the defensive line for the Wolverines.

So he went on Instagram. He found Mel Kiper’s account. He began tapping.

“I am going to be the number 1 DE on your Big Board, mark my words.”

He never got a response, this braggy kid from Michigan. He didn’t care. The message was sent.

“That was something I wanted to put out in the universe and I wanted to get it off my chest,” Hutchinson, a little weary from the combine crappola and workout that afternoon, told me. “It’s something that I believed so much in my head. I was motivated. I wanted to be number one on that list.”

Hutchinson is there, and not just on Kiper’s list. His performance at the combine put all eyes on him. And 52 days before the draft, the bullseye’s on him. Just the way he wants it to be.

“Now I gotta send a couple more direct messages to some other people,” Hutchinson said.

No, Aidan Hutchinson. Now they’ve got to DM you.


More on Hutchinson and his combine performance and the draft his world is coming. A few interesting things around the NFL world first, including:

  • Kirk Herbstreit to Amazon.
  • The NFL can’t quit Indianapolis, despite the strong arm of Jerry Jones.
  • Aidan could own this draft.
  • A-Rod: Pack, Broncs? It’s decision time.
  • Aaron Glenn’s got lots of fans around the league.
  • Calm yourselves on Jordan Davis.
  • The 40 stinks.
  • Smart money’s on new OT rule for playoffs only.
  • Get to know Bo Melton.
  • In the Madonna suite with Josh McDaniels.
  • Ever hear of Dri Archer? Time to remember him.
  • Thanks, Jim Irsay. Cool stuff, Teachers’ Treasures.

There’s a lot happening. So let’s go.

From conversations heard in the skywalks of Indianapolis, in the bars and restaurants and coffee spots (you should try the JW Marriott Starbucks or Kaffeine Coffee Co. or Coat Check Coffee, for good coffee and better gossip), some things I was hearing in my Wednesday-to-Saturday visit to the NFL Scouting Combine:

Aidan Hutchinson exits Indy as the odds-on favorite to be the top pick

My hunch is the Jaguars favor a spotless edge prospect over one of the tackles. Hutchinson flew home to Michigan on Sunday morning knowing he did nothing to hurt his cause. I’m not crazy about projecting who’s going to be a good NFL player based on some measured drill in shorts and a T-shirt, and this shouldn’t determine Hutchinson’s draft fate. But if you’ve seen the 3-cone drill—designed to measure a player’s speed while he changes direction in an instant—you know that it’s a valuable tool to judge edge rushers, receivers and cornerbacks. Hutchinson’s 6.73-second time here was faster than all but five players at this combine, two receivers and three defensive backs.

I don’t believe Jags GM Trent Baalke and coach Doug Pederson will be unduly swayed by combine tests. But the tape says a lot about Hutchinson’s raw power and instincts and drive. His college production (30.5 tackles-for-loss plus sacks last season) has made some scouts compare him to former NFL edge player Jared Allen, who put up 136 sacks in 12 NFL season. Their on-field zeal is certainly comparable.

NFL Combine
2022 NFL Draft edge prospect Aidan Hutchinson. (Getty Images)

Allen’s 3-cone in the 2004 pre-draft process: 7.11 seconds. We’ll see if Hutchinson’s premier athleticism here means much come the first round April 28.

Herbstreit to the NFL

I heard last night that Amazon—spurned by Troy Aikman, Sean McVay and John Lynch—has settled on ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit to be the analyst on its Thursday night package of NFL games starting this fall. (He’s likely to continue his current ESPN/ABC duties as well.) Andrew Marchand of the New York Post was first to connect the Amazon-Herbstreit dots on Feb. 27.

My first reaction: It seems weird. Amazon would rather have a very good college football analyst who’s never had a regular NFL job do the games than, say, Drew Brees or Sean Payton or Kurt Warner? My second reaction: Herbstreit’s a pro, he’s a big name to legions of college football fans, he must really want to break the college-to-NFL glass ceiling, Amazon surely wanted to make a splash with this hire, and Herbstreit’s a non-status-quo guy. He’s different. It’s a little edgy, a little risky. All that, just my educated guess.

We’re still awaiting decision from two of the great play-by-play people of our lives, Al Michaels and Joe Buck, on their 2022 homes. But when you stream Amazon this fall to watch the Thursday night package, you’ll be hearing a new NFL voice, Kirk Herbstreit, interpret the games.

The Combine’s locale

On Saturday, the day I left, I asked a major NFL operative what he’d heard about the site of the 2023 combine. “If I were a betting man,” he said, “I’d take Indianapolis for at least one more year. The league knows no one wants to move.”

This influential person was not the only one who told me to stick with Indy for 2023. So here’s my call: The combine stays one more year, at least, in central Indiana.

NFL Combine
(Getty Images)

There’s been an assumption that the NFL Scouting Combine, which has been held in Indianapolis for 36 straight years, is on the way to a more league-lucrative site in Dallas (Jerry Jones is pushing hard for it) or Los Angeles next year. There was a funereal tone of voice for everyone when discussing moving the combine. It’s a universally despised idea. No one has to get in a car here, and on long days, no trek longer than a 12-minute walk is crucial in time management. Anywhere else, it’s a commuter’s convention. 

“You watch,” one GM told me. “If the combine moves, you won’t see near the number of coaches here as who come now.”

I asked one coach about that, and he said, “Absolutely right. It’s a huge time-suck for us now. I could see lots of coaches staying away if it moves.”

Here’s why that matters: The NFL needs a TV show. NFL Network needs to focus a camera on John Harbaugh watching workouts when discussion of Ravens comes up. When Daniel Jeremiah is talking about the first pick in the Aidan Hutchinson workout, it would help to see Jags coach Doug Pederson studying the field. So if a bunch of coaches don’t come, the TV studio has fewer stars.

Lots of stealth around Aaron Rodgers

I saw Matt LaFleur walk into a meeting with one of Rodgers’ reps in a room at the JW on Wednesday afternoon and stay for maybe 30 minutes. Lots of cloak-and-dagger here about Rodgers, of course. LaFleur left here on Friday to go to left tackle David Bakhtiari’s weekend wedding in California—and certainly saw Rodgers, one of Bakhtiari’s best friends, there. Will-Rodgers-or-won’t-he is the biggest story out there. And whether to stay in Green Bay, ask for a trade or retire (one of the first two is more probable) likely will come in the next nine days, by the time the 2022 league year begins. There’s one narrative out there that Rodgers will make his call by Tuesday’s franchise-tag deadline, but I don’t know why that matters. The Packers are very likely to franchise another good Rodgers pal, wideout Davante Adams, whether the QB stays or goes.

If Rodgers goes, I still think it’s to an AFC team. And as I wrote in December, Denver is most likely. The Broncos are most desperate and will pay the Packers a boatload of picks and at least one good player for the 38-year-old QB. And Rodgers would be reunited with his ex-offensive coordinator, new Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett.

A new leader in the Black coach pack

When I asked around about Black coach candidates to a few NFL GMs, I heard only one name out of three mouths: Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. A Bill Parcells disciple, Glenn, 49, is a former 15-year NFL corner with 41 career interceptions. He’s a steely, bright guy who players (I’m told) love playing for.

Glenn interviewed for the Saints’ head-coaching job, and GM Mickey Loomis told me he had a great one. The problem there was Dennis Allen, who’d been on the New Orleans staff since 2015 and has choreographed one of the best defenses in the league. Someone was going to overwhelm the Saints to knock out Allen. Glenn came close.

“Aaron will be a head coach in our league,” Loomis told me.

Nothing imminent on OT

The Competition Committee met in Indianapolis and began to comb through a slew of rules issues. Not a lot done yet on the subject of overtime, which will be the hot-button issue when owners, coaches, GMs and executives meet for the league’s first post-Covid in-person spring owners meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., in three weeks. The committee won’t get down to the nitty-gritty of rules discussion till virtual meetings among the members begin next Monday.

It’s too early to tell whether any change in overtime has a good chance to pass. The overtime conundrum—should the coin flip matter so much, and should each team be guaranteed a possession in the extra period—will be the biggest matter on the table at the league meetings. History tells us two things are important here. Any solution has a better chance of passage if it’s a simple one. And it likely will be easier to pass it for the playoffs now, not for the regular season and playoffs. Why? That’s the history of these kinds of decisions. In 2010, the NFL passed a rule for the playoffs saying a touchdown on the first drive of OT would end the game. In 2012, that rule was applied to all games. That’s the rule on the books now. As I canvassed teams at the combine, there’s no groundswell that something must be done. But two influential people on this issue told me to look at the playoff numbers regarding overtime since the system was changed a decade ago:

Overtime playoff games: 12.

Games won on the first drive of overtime: 7.

Games won by the team winning the coin flip to start overtime: 10.

The numbers for regular-season games aren’t nearly as decisive. I think if the committee—which is not unanimous that anything needs to be done with overtime—has a chance to change the rule, it’s playoffs-only at least as we sit here today. 

I talked to several team people at the combine who think if both teams are assured of at least one possession, the coin-flip winner to start overtime will in most cases defer. The reason is simple: If the team with the ball first in overtime doesn’t score, or turns it over, the team with the ball second needs only a field goal to win.

Daniel Jeremiah’s three main takeaways

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, fresh off the set after six days of analysis, on his three main takeaways from the 2022 combine:

• Good depth. “The overall depth of this class is outstanding. Here are two examples: In a normal year, UConn defensive tackle Travis Jones would have been the buzz of the defensive linemen after a great workout. [Minnesota defensive end] Boye Mafe, same thing. They are first-round talents, and they almost got lost in the shuffle of all the great players here.”

NFL Combine
2022 NFL Draft defensive end prospect Boye Mafe. (Getty Images)

• Georgia players might be better than we thought. Everyone swooned over 341-pound defensive tackle Jordan Davis running as fast as a running back. “But here’s what was really crazy about the Georgia group: The other defensive tackle from there, Devonte Wyatt, is even more explosive. [Defensive tackle] Jalen Carter’s probably the best player on that defense this year, and he’s not eligible for the draft till next year. And Jermaine Johnson could be a top-10 pick—and he had to transfer from Georgia to Florida State to get playing time last season. I have never seen a defense with that kind of talent.”

• Lack of clarity at quarterback. Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis “are what we thought they were,” while Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and UNC’s Sam Howell were impressive. But the quarterbacks exited the combine with as many question marks about being NFL starters as when they arrived.

Good week for Ikem Ekwonu

The offensive tackles will fall in some order like this: N.C. State’s Ekwonu and Alabama’s Evan Neal will duel for the top tackle. Ekwonu had a very good workout and Neal chose to let his Pro Day workout be his showcase (“I had a long season, and I wanted to give myself more time to prepare,” he said here). But Neal’s tackle-guard versatility and 39 career starts for Bama are difference-makers. After the top two, it’s probably Mississippi State’s Charles Cross and Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning. On the interior, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is loved by the scouts, and he’ll probably go no later than 25.

“Ekwonu entered as the top guy for a lot of NFL people, and he’s leaving as the top guy,” said one scout in Lucas Oil for the workouts.

Ekwonu’s fascinating. He was accepted at Yale and Harvard, but chose N.C. State because Ivy League schools don’t offer athletic scholarships and, of course, N.C. State did. He was one of the most engaging players in his press availability at the draft, talking as much about getting the lead in “101 Dalmatians” in fifth grade as anything else. Lots of bright guys in this draft, by the way. Lots.

We talk too much about 40 times

I’ve always been a get-off-my-lawn guy about the 40-yard dash for players who never run 40 yards in a game. And I don’t think it’s so big for wideouts and corners and backs either. Let’s look at all players who have run 4.26 seconds or faster in the 40 in combine history:

  • 4.22. John Ross, WR, 2017. Drafted by the Bengals fifth overall. Has been invisible—five years, 62 catches, now playing a minor role for the Giants.
  • 4.23. Kalon Barnes, CB, 2022. Exploded onto the scene with a great 40 on Sunday. Thought to be the second-best Baylor corner in the draft, behind Jalen Pitre.
  • 4.24. Chris Johnson, RB, 2008. An excellent NFL back. Led the league in rushing in 2009 and finished with six 1,000-yard seasons.
  • 4.24. Rondel Menendez, WR, 1999. A seventh-round pick of the Falcons. Never played a snap in the NFL.
  • 4.26. Jerome Mathis, WR, 2005. Touched the ball 90 times in a three-year Texans career. Last played at age 24.
  • 4.26. Dri Archer, RB, 2014. Touched the ball 34 times in a two-year Steeler career. Last played at age 24.

Had enough?

But let’s talk about a 40 time

By sheer amazement, the thing that blew people away more than anything in the past few days was a 341-pound man running a 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds. Georgia’s Jordan Davis ran the 40 faster than Patrick Mahomes (116 pounds lighter) did five years ago at the combine. Mahomes ran a 4.80.

JORDAN DAVIS: 10’3″ BROAD

WHO IS THIS MAN⁉️pic.twitter.com/JYHTpZF7I6

— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 6, 2022

Most draft analysts have Davis ranked around the middle of the first round. Fair enough. Lots of disparity in opinion about him, though. “Incredible run,” one GM told me. “But why wasn’t he on the field for Georgia on third down?”

Hmmm. Let’s see. Per Eric Eager of Pro Football Focus, Jordan Davis played 44 of Georgia’s 246 defensive snaps on third down in 2021. That means he played 18 percent of Georgia’s third downs. You’d think that a man who can run that fast would be invaluable on third down because of his ability to shoot through gaps and get to the quarterback. But he was likely the third most explosive interior linemen at Georgia last year, behind Devonte Wyatt and Jalen Carter. And PFF had him as the seventh-rated interior defensive lineman in the this draft.

But Eager pointed out that teams love the big-body nose players who can be athletic too, because it allows them to have fewer players in the box to respect the run on likely passing downs. So Davis still has very good value in the draft, and his performance here likely means he goes no later than 20.

What about Kayvon Thibodeaux?

Not the best week for a potentially difference-making edge player. (He thinks of himself as Jadeveon Clowney II.) Thibodeaux chose not to finish his combine drills; he benched 225 pounds 27 times, which is very good, and ran a 4.58 40, which is also excellent. He came in with questions about taking plays off at Oregon, and he’ll be criticized for dropping out of the combine (he reportedly said it was a “long day,” which didn’t affect the others in the drills), and probably should be.

I talked with one NFL general manager who met with Thibodeaux in Indy and he found Thibodeaux, in this brief snapshot, to be a me guy. Now that’s how one GM sees it; others might have a different impression. I’ve covered the combine for more than 20 years. Prospects come to Indy with some zits on their records every year. Sometimes they’re minimized, and sometimes they keep showing up. The only time I ever heard of a player who just bombed his combine appearance and it contributed to his ruination was Ryan Leaf in 1998. Leaf showed up at the combine weighing 268 and missed his private meeting with the Indianapolis Colts, the team with the number one pick. He was the second pick in the draft and it was a disaster.

But most of these combine mishaps end up having very little to do with where a player gets picked. The tape matters. Private conversations with teammates and college coaches matter. I’d bet GMs in the market for difference-making edge players (Joe Douglas of the Jets, picking fourth and 10th, Joe Schein of the Giants, picking fifth and seventh) will wear out the tape and their college contacts learning everything about Thibodeaux. On April 28, when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, we’ll know everything about whether Thibodeaux’s ego and effort are real problems to those in the NFL who really matter—GMs with picks between, say, 4 and 15.

Todd McShay’s combine ups, downs

ESPN analyst Todd McShay on the three players whose combine performances moved his needle the most:

Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State. Rising. The former running back and quarterback earned FCS defensive player of the year, had a great showing at the Senior Bowl and just tore up the combine. At 6-3 ½ and 243 pounds, he ran a 4.42 40. I think he’s a day one starter and will be a second-round pick.

Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers. Rising. I need to go back and study more tape on Melton. I saw speed on tape but didn’t think he was a 4.34 guy, which is what he ran here in Indy. He also crushed the broad jump, vertical, and the 3-cone. Quietly had one of the best combine workouts of all the offensive skills players. He’s a really intriguing mid-round prospect.

David Bell, WR, Purdue. Dropping. I knew he wasn’t a track star but running a 4.65 40 is concerning, especially when similarly graded slot receivers (Wan’Dale Robinson, Calvin Austin and Venus Jones) worked out as well as they did.

On Kyler Murray

Next week in the column, I plan to dive deep into the Murray dissatisfaction with the Cardinals. It’s multi-layered, and too much for this week. But three points should be made in the wake of agent Erik Burkhardt’s screed for a new contract for Murray in Arizona.

A statement from Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray’s agent, @ErikBurkhardt: pic.twitter.com/qsWGZIZ0jB

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 28, 2022

One: An agent doesn’t go off screaming for a new contract without his client understanding and at least tacitly agreeing with the approach. So Murray knows, and supports, Burkhardt’s policy of pressing hard for the new deal.

Two: I think there’s only a very slim chance Murray plays for the money’s he’s due this year: $5.5 million. Why? He’s a smaller quarterback with a highly suspect offensive line. He inherited a three-win Arizona team that has won 24 games in his first three NFL seasons. He’s got two years of team control left with no assurance that the franchise is going to do a new deal with him, and if it doesn’t, the physical damage he could undergo in two years could have a major influence on his next contract.

Three: By the wording of Burkhardt’s epistle on asking for a new deal, it’s clear Burkhardt and Murray have some major trust issues with the team. Such as: With so many teams hungry for a QB1, will the Cardinals pay him something near what the market will bear?

The next few weeks should be interesting. Murray will be watching if the Cardinals reinforce the offensive line and more with young talent in free agency and the draft. Now this is important. Many, and I am part of this group, wonder why the Murray side should be so demanding when he declined at the end of last season and was awful in the playoff game against the Rams. Good question. That’s an issue each side is going to have to ponder as the Cardinals decide what to do about Murray’s disillusionment.

Question I’ve been dying to ask

Lobby couch, Le Meridien Hotel, Thursday, 7:15 a.m.

“What was your thought process, going for it on fourth-and-one from your own 18 in the third quarter at Vegas in the last game of the year?” I said.

Chargers coach Brandon Staley has thought about this quite a bit, of course. With nine minutes left in the third quarter at Las Vegas, winner goes to the playoffs and loser goes home, the Raiders led 17-14. The Chargers’ offense was stalled. Staley had been aggressive all season, and this day would be no difference. He’d go for it on fourth down seven times in the biggest game of the year. Now was no exception.

Staley:

“First, it was a crazy environment. If you were there in person, you’d know. Totally electric. It was a playoff game

“We get off to a good start on the drive and then it’s third-and-one. We don’t make it. At that point, fourth-and-one at our 18, I just felt like Vegas wasn’t a great short-yardage team, and our punter had struggled. We were the worst net punting team in the league. I really felt like we could get this thing off the ground. On fourth-and-one, everyone’s gonna tell you percentage-wise, go for it. It’s a no brainer in terms of that.”

At your own 18? Not sure about that.

“I felt like at that time, this is gonna get us into rhythm. I really liked the way we were playing on defense. We had put the cuffs on them defensively They’re not gonna expect us to go for it, number one. They’re not expecting this. And then we didn’t get it. [Austin Ekeler was tackled for a loss of two yards.] So we stopped them right away and they kicked a field goal. Now, talk about the analytics. I had done that during the season. I had done that at different points, kind of a nontraditional fourth-and-one. What happens is on the other side there’s kinda like this effect when you make it that you can see on the sideline. I was hoping for that effect and didn’t get it. I take full responsibility for it and I can see why people would be critical of me.

“A couple days ago, I did a huge [report] on my game management. Timeouts, end-game and the half strategy, fourth downs. I’m like, ‘I’m really proud a first-year coach, and everyone’s saying, ‘What are his chops gonna be like when you gotta have it?’ I mean, I felt like I was as good as anybody in the league in those situations because I had spent the whole offseason, I spent my whole life like getting ready for it. Our staff, we were connected on how we wanted to play. Our players, they knew how we wanted to play and we just were committed to doing this. I feel like how we played in that game was a reflection of how special we’re gonna be.

“I regret losing. But I don’t regret that decision.”

The Chargers were six of seven on fourth-down attempts that day and 22 of 34 (.647) on the season. My belief is Staley shouldn’t change. The Raiders did win the game by three (the late-game weirdness about playing for a tie probably played into some of that), but last season the Chargers got more good out of the aggressiveness than bad. Staley should repeat his boldness this year.

Irony of the Week

The new coach of the Las Vegas Raiders spent combine week in a highly strange space. There, in a suite atop the Conrad Hotel downtown, Josh McDaniels set up a tape-watching Nirvana with his GM and friend, Dave Ziegler, to study the 2022 free-agency class in between combine workouts and interviews.

This was the suite where Madonna stayed during Super Bowl week 10 years and one month ago, when the Patriots lost again to the Giants. That’s a bad memory for New England. But McDaniels has only good memories of his time with the Patriots. He is one of the few coaches who was a part of all six Patriots’ Super Bowl victories. It’s that history that Raiders owner Mark Davis hoped to buy into when he hired Ziegler, first, and then McDaniels.

NFL: MAR 02 Scouting Combline
Raiders coach Josh McDaniels. (Getty Images)

In this really nice corner suite, the irony of it seemed lost on McDaniels. Four years ago, he’d accepted the Colts head-coaching job, then rejected it after the season, sending the Colts into a hiring tailspin, and McDaniels had been vilified for it. His agent fired him. McDaniels had to accept that he may never get another chance to be an NFL head coach, and if that happened, so be it. When we spoke Thursday afternoon in the Madonna suite, it’s like the weirdness of rejecting the Colts and now being a six-minute walk from Lucas Oil Stadium in his first major act as coach of the Las Vegas Raiders didn’t even occur to him.

He said, “I understood when we made the decision, when I made the decision not to come to the Colts, that it would be unpopular. I also felt like it was the right thing to do for a number of reasons. I’d never really thought about it day to day, year to year: What if this happens? What if I never get another opportunity? I never stressed about that. I’ve been very fortunate in my career in the NFL. I’ve been fortunate to be around great people. We’ve been to Super Bowls and done some amazing things. If I never had the opportunity to be a head coach again, I would never look back on it and say, ‘Wow, my career was a failure’ or ‘We didn’t really enjoy our opportunities in the NFL.’ I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to be here as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.”

More about McDaniels, and his new gig, in the coming weeks.

In the coming weeks, Jacksonville and Detroit and Houston and the Jets and Giants—the teams picking 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in the draft—will poke and prod Hutchinson and his family and his world, as any smart teams should do when thinking of making a huge investment in a high first-round pick.

They should start with his journals.

Once, when he was a young boy, the Hutchinsons were looking for young Aidan. They found him on the front porch, writing in a notebook. He never stopped. He writes about school, friends, family, football, life, TV shows, everything. He still does. Almost every day.

“It’s very beneficial for my mind This game is just as much mental as it is physical. I’m focused on maintaining that mental and keeping my head on straight,” he said. “Sometimes I got these mantras that I say, kind of repeatedly say them, repeatedly write them down. Some days, I got a lot of things on my mind and I kind of just need to reflect on the day. Put the pen to the paper, and just write and that kind of calms my mind a little bit.”

Those journal entries, those mantras, what are they?

“I’d say a couple of them are just telling myself that I’m limitless. I have an infinite mindset. The power is within me. I hate when people put caps on myself and my ability. It’s something that people have done my whole career. I’ve never listened to them.

“I have no boundaries. There’s no mountain that I can’t reach. That’s how I view myself and me playing football.”

The interesting thing about Hutchinson’s career, at least the first one, is he wasn’t forced into football. His dad was one of the best Michigan defensive players in program history, the team MVP in 1992 as a defensive lineman/outside linebacker. But Chris Hutchinson never forced or covertly urged his son to play football. Aidan fell in love with the game on his own. He was motivated once at Michigan to do one thing—beat Ohio State. He worked with his dad’s Michigan jersey on his wall during college, with a ticket stub attached from the last Michigan win over Ohio State in 2011.

And he worked to make himself a versatile end. He wanted to be great at stopping the run, rushing the passer and being sure no one got around the edge on him. Watch this play against Ohio State. Hutchinson is not just an edge rusher. He can plow a strong tackle back to the quarterback with Aaron Donald-like skill and force.

Aidan Hutchinson steamrolling Ohio State’s Thayer Munford earlier today in The Game. My goodness. ?#MICHvsOSU @aidanhutch97 #TheGame #GoBluepic.twitter.com/DsCv3PgP2a

— From the Stands Sports (@FromTheStandsUS) November 28, 2021

On that play, if you watch closely, it seems like Hutchinson doesn’t start and finish with the same intention. It looks like instinct took over in mid-snap. I asked him about it, and about playing with instinct.

“This class is frickin’ loaded with talent,” he said. “I think the thing that separates me, I can rush with speed and power, but I think what separates me are my instincts. When I’m out there, I call it my ‘Spidey-sense.’ I’ll feel a play’s coming and then I, most of the time, I’ll trust it and I’ll make a play because of it. I think I just need to continue to keep trusting it because I think my instincts really do separate me and they’re what’s gonna separate me at that next level as well.

“That play I joke about this with my coach all the time. I call this the pass rushing instincts. Sometimes you go out there and you do some things that you had not practiced ever. You have never done in practice. Your body just kinda takes over.

“In every rush, I have a game plan. Sometimes you gotta work a countermove. That’s where I believe I have that pass-rusher instinct. But there’s only a few guys that have it. I think especially at that next level where your body just kinda takes over and you just win a lot of reps because you have that instinct.”

Now comes the selling part. I think the Jags prefer an edge player with an attitude over a tackle, but we’ll see. The Lions, same thing; Detroit doesn’t want to be stuck with a tackle being the best player on the board with Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell at tackle today. It’s a good time to be Aidan Hutchinson, even in the midst of a great edge market. And whoever picks him will be getting a player and a person with other things in his life. It’s worked for Hutchinson so far.

“I want to be a Hall of Famer,” he said. “I want to be first-team All-Pro. That’s going in the journal, too.”

I

“Is Rodgers going to stay with the Green Bay Packers? Does anybody know?”

—Legendary old rocker Alice Cooper, during an interview with Kendra Meinert of the Green Bay Press Gazette.

II

“That door is never closed. Whenever Tom wants back, he’s back. We’ll have plenty of money for him.”

—Bucs coach Bruce Arians, on the unlikely prospect of Tom Brady coming out of retirement and returning for a third season in Tampa Bay.

III

“He’s the optimist, I’m the pessimist. I like to say I’m a realist, but what’s a realist? It’s really a pessimist in hiding.”

—Jacksonville GM Trent Baalke, on his relationship with coach Doug Pederson.

IV

“The door is shut on Deshaun.”

—Miami GM Chris Grier, who runs the team linked for so long to trading for Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson.

That’s a very bad sign for the Watson market. I had one GM at the combine tell me he thinks there’s a good chance Watson will not play in the NFL in 2022.

V

“Probably the craziest thing I had to do was, I walked into one meeting and I had to shoot basketballs on a mini-hoop. It was the Eagles. I only made, like, two out of five. So, probably not high up on their board right now.”

—North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell, on a quirky combine thing he was asked to do.

VI

“Even though you don’t think I do, I love you guys.”

—Mike Kryszewski, the Duke coach, addressing his team after they lost to North Carolina in his final home game as coach at Duke.

The Eagles have the 15th pick in the first round. The Dolphins have the 29th. It could have been reversed.

Before the draft last year, Miami traded up from 12th overall to get the sixth pick—to take receiver Jaylen Waddle, as it turned out—and Philadelphia acquired a first-round pick in 2022 in return. But Miami had two first-round picks in ’22. Which one would be sent?

Miami had its 2022 first-rounder, and one from San Francisco in the trade the Niners made to draft Trey Lance third overall. Last spring, I talked to both GM Chris Grier and then-coach Brian Flores, and I was left with the distinct impression that Eagles GM Howie Roseman was insistent that the Eagles have their choice of the two Miami 2022 first-rounders. Miami was coming off a 10-6 season in 2020; injury-riddled San Francisco went 6-10. Roseman obviously had to decide which team would be picking higher in the ’22 draft. It was a guess, but he wanted the Dolphins pick. He figured San Francisco would have a better season in 2021 and thus pick lower.

So Miami sent its own 2022 pick to Philly to complete the deal. In some ways, I assumed then, the trade was right up Flores’ alley. Now he’d get to go out and prove his was the team on the rise. My guess is Flores was confident Miami would be better than San Francisco in 2021, and the Miami pick would be lower in the first round in ’22 than the Niners’ pick.

It was close. Miami was 9-8 and San Francisco 10-7, but the Niners made the playoffs and went all the way to the NFC title game. That gave them the 29th overall pick. Miami, out of the playoffs, would pick 15th. Think about the difference made by one regular-season win and some playoff success. Huge.

Roseman gets his share of guff as Eagles GM, and some is deserved. But by apparently holding firm on which pick he wanted a year later, his call was prescient. A 14-spot difference in the first round is big. Think of it this way: The well-worn NFL Draft Trade Value chart places a point value on each pick for the purpose of evaluation trades. Look at these numbers:

Value of 15th pick: 1,050 points.

Value of 29th pick: 640 points.

Difference: 410 points.

So, 410 points is the exact value of the 49th overall pick in the draft. Some recent 49th picks: Chase Claypool, Dallas Goedert, Max Unger, DeSean Jackson.

That’s value. Now the Eagles have the 15th (via Miami), 16th (via Indianapolis) and 19th picks and control the middle of a first round that’s not great at the top. (It’s possible Philly could try to trade down and acquire a prime pick in the second round.) The Eagles would have had less control with only two picks in the middle of the first round instead of three. Philly projected right on the trade, and it could pay off in April.

I

Aidan Hutchinson is the son of former Michigan defensive lineman/linebacker Chris Hutchinson, who was the Wolverines’ team MVP in 1992. When he graduated from Michigan, the 6-1, 249-pound Chris Hutchinson went undrafted but signed as a college free agent with Cleveland and went to training camp with the Browns. Chris Hutchinson never played in a regular-season NFL game, but he went on to a pretty good second life: After med school at Michigan, he became a physician and emergency-room doctor in Michigan.

The head coach for Chris Hutchinson’s cup of NFL coffee was Bill Belichick. His defensive coordinator: Nick Saban.

II

After eight years as a college basketball coach (five at Army, three at Duke), Mike Krzyzewski was 111-106 with zero NCAA tournament appearances.

Thirty-nine years and 28.1 average wins per season later, with only two non-Covid seasons finishing without entry to the NCAA tournament, Krzyzewski coached his last game in Durham on Saturday night. What a coaching life.

I

With the possibility of the NFL Scouting Combine perhaps leaving Indianapolis, it seemed right for those of us in the media who have frequented the combine to say thank you to the city for all the time spent in Indy over the years. So I called on a lot of friends to help do that, in a fundraiser Thursday night: Steve Koers of Sun King Brewing (he provided the space at his downtown brewery), Angie Six (the ace annual organizer of the event), 10 friends in the media covering the combine (to be on hand to answer NFL questions for the crowd of 100), and you readers (81 of you stepped up and bought $25 tickets even though you could not attend) to supercharge the event. The beneficiary would be Teachers’ Treasures, which provides school supplies, gratis, to 270 schools in which at least 60 percent of the students are on free or reduced-cost meal programs. Stepping up without being asked was PR man Matt Conti of the Colts, who donated autographed items to be auctioned.

My goal was to raise $5,000. Teachers’ Treasures, which operates out of a shuttered Kroger supermarket, has a slew of benefactors whose generosity allows every dollar donated to turn into $15 of school supplies. My goal of $5K would fund $75,000 worth of supplies for local teachers. On average, 100 teachers per day walk through the facility to take about $500 worth of supplies to bring back to their classrooms. All free.

This was the best event we ever had at the combine, in interest and attendance and coolness. A Colts fan, Dan Jordan of Noblesville, Ind., won the Jonathan Taylor autographed jersey with a bid of $500. “Seemed like a great cause,” he said. “My wife’s a former teacher.”

sunking
The event at Sun King Brewery in downtown Indianapolis on Thursday night. (NBC Sports)

I thought the highlight of the evening was a fan asking Adam Schefter which product he uses on his skin. But the highlight changed a couple of hours after the event. Matt Conti phoned. Seems Colts owner Jim Irsay heard of the meet-up at the brewery. “Mr. Irsay wants to contribute $10,000,” Conti said. “He wants to help Teachers’ Treasures.”

Whoa. Adding the Irsay donation, we had a $15,000 night. We were all over the moon.

I did the math. $15K, times 15 in value Teachers Treasures will be able to allocate $225,000 worth of school supplies to teachers throughout Marion County from the Thursday night event, and from the generosity of Jim Irsay.

“We’re a small non-profit,” Alicia Van Rensburg, the Director of Development at Teachers’ Treasures, told me Friday. “We have an annual budget of $8.4 million, and to have $225,000 just show up like that we are just so grateful. And Mr. Irsay’s generosity—we were just floored.

“You have to understand how much is on these teachers’ shoulders these days. They are teachers, parents, social workers, counselors, nurses to these students in so many cases. They’re used to spending $800 to $1,200 a year of their own money to buy everything for these students. Socks, clothes, backpacks, feminine hygiene products in some cases. It is so hard to hear their stories. But they can come to our facility and get a lot of the supplies they need for free.

“That is what makes events like this so vitally important. If this is the last time for the combine here, it’s a beautiful way to go out. Thank you.”

Thank us? Thank you, Teachers’ Treasures.

II

Indianapolis. Easy airport. Comfortable city. My Wednesday arrival there:

1:24 p.m.: Arrive, Delta, at Indianapolis International Airport.

1:28 p.m. Deplane into airy, relatively new terminal.

1:32 p.m.: Run into Steve Burton, Boston sportscaster, and wife, in town to see their daughter (Northwestern hoopster) play in Big Ten Tournament in downtown Indy.

1:35 p.m.: Fetch bag from Delta carousel.

1:38 p.m.: Get into cab outside terminal. No rental car needed in Indianapolis, most walkable good-sized city in America.

1:54 p.m.: Arrive/check-in, JW Marriott Hotel.

2:07 p.m.: Combine schmoozing commenceth in the lobby of the JW.

Time from stepping off the plane to doing my job: 43 minutes.

Attention Urban Planners: Visit Indianapolis. Map out your city, when possible, so that it’s walkable.

I

“I can’t have you in the building and not put on a show”

LeBron shares a few words with LA Rams QB Matthew Stafford in the midst of 56 point night. pic.twitter.com/8kNTieH9uZ

— NBA (@NBA) March 6, 2022

LeBron James met Matthew Stafford by courtside Saturday night.

II

Jordan Davis. At 341 pounds! ? pic.twitter.com/a5lWNVtaew

— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 5, 2022

Nagy is executive director of the Senior Bowl, and was impressed by Davis’ 40 time Saturday.

III

After a full day at the NFL Combine, prospect EJ Perry (QB) Brown University picked up every last piece of trash left by other players on the bench.

Class act. Wow. @nflnetwork @NFL pic.twitter.com/mFoZn5vTZd

— Kimmi (@kimmichex) March 6, 2022

Kimmi Chex works for NFL Network.

IV

Drafting Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner to play under Don “Wink” Martindale may be a good move for the Giants, but from a writing style perspective there should be a “limit” on the number of people on each “team” who go by nicknames that requires “quotation” marks.

— Tom Rock (@TomRock_Newsday) March 5, 2022

Rock “covers” the Giants for Newsday.

V

As far as I’m concerned, this is Mike McDaniel’s first career win. https://t.co/sW2WelQ77p

— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) March 6, 2022

Eisen, the NFL Network host, on the new Dolphins coach, who clearly takes press conferences one at a time.

Reach me at peterkingfmia@gmail.com, or on Twitter @peter_king.

On overtime. From Alex Gruel, of Albany, N.Y.: “Count me in as one of the very rare people who doesn’t mind the current overtime setup. And I go back to your wording to point it out—fairness. You cannot make an overtime where there is a winner and a loser truly fair. How is it any more fair for Patrick Mahomes to touch the ball twice to Josh Allen’s once than it is for those numbers to be 1 to 0? Since in that scenario the coin flip still decides who gets the advantage.”

We’ll probably not agree on this, but I don’t see how a system that makes it eminently possible for a team to win on the first possession of overtime without the other team touching the ball is as fair as a system that would mandate that both teams touch it.

On baseball. From Alan Winstanley, of Boston: “Baseball, as it is currently constituted, is virtually unwatchable. I can watch a football game in three hours, hockey and basketball in two-and-a-half to three. Baseball? 3-4 hours, or more. My Red Sox start at 7:05. The game might go till 10, 11, 12 o’clock. Who can do this over 162 games?!?! Viewers have jobs. Kids have school. The pace of play is mind-numbing.”

Preaching to the packed pews, Alan. I wish baseball would wake up and do something about it.

On TV today. From Douglas Pucci, of The Bronx, N.Y.: “The concerning stat for baseball is the average age of those who tune in. According to a 2017 survey by Sports Business Journal, MLB’s median age [of fans] is 57. The NFL was next oldest at 50 (which has led to their recent Nickelodeon playoff experiments), followed by the NHL’s 49 and the NBA’s 42. Those ages probably have gotten older in the five years since that report. Much like what MLB is experiencing, a huge part of why linear TV has eroded so swiftly in recent years is that those in the key 18-34 age range are discovering new content (e.g. Netflix, gaming, internet-related activity) while abandoning the more bloated TV packages filled with channels that are hardly sampled. Isn’t it something that over 50 years ago, football needed the medium of television to succeed. Nowadays, it’s television that needs football just to survive.”

Wish I’d thought of that, Douglas. Really smart point to make. Thanks for sharing it.

On Covid. From Corey Livermore, of Henderson, Nev.: “The NFL today suspended all COVID protocols. I bet it makes you feel good to have hated so harshly on everyone who missed games or wasn’t vaccinated knowing now that none of it mattered. And somehow, saying ‘I told you so’ just doesn’t do justice to the number of times I emailed you to tell you it wasn’t as bad as you wanted to believe it was.”

Well, I don’t feel bad about what I wrote, at all. A few things about your point. There are no games now, and Covid is declining across the country. Why would the NFL have a testing protocol now? “None of it mattered,” you say. How about in the first 25 days of December, when more than 400 players tested positive and were sidelined? Would you have been okay with all of them, infected with Covid, playing football, being in locker rooms with uninfected players? Times change, infection rates change. It’s okay to adjust your thinking as you go along, based on the seriousness of the contagion.

1. I think I wanted to give you flavor of what it’s like to be at the combine, and I thought the well-plugged-in Peter Schrager of NFL Network and Fox Sports would be a good guide. In Schrager’s words

Working on the NFL Network’s morning show ‘Good Morning Football,’ I maximized my time in Indy and had time with 15 or so general managers, execs and coaches. Three nuggets from my week:

• Rams COO Kevin Demoff was in Indianapolis for less than 24 hours. We had the bold thought of meeting for lunch outside the convenient Combine bubble. We walked twenty minutes away and hit BRU BURGER, and we didn’t run into one assistant coach, didn’t see one NFL logo, and had salads and shared a plate of nachos. The one thing I took out of it was how excited the entire organization is over the hiring of Liam Coen as the new offensive coordinator. Coen was with the Rams from 2018 to 2020, left for a year to call plays at Kentucky, and is now returning to L.A. Wondering if the Rams are wallowing after losing eight coaches? Don’t be fooled. They’re happy for the guys moving on, energized by the new crop coming in.

• It’s always amazing to me when folks who’ve been in the league for a long time don’t necessarily know each other well. When I met Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett for a coffee, Bills GM Brandon Beane walked in with his Aunt Patti, a native of Carmel. Within seconds of handshakes and hugs, I realize Hackett and Beane were strangers. I introduced them, they hit it off, and within minutes, Aunt Patti’s daughter and son in law were posing for a photo with Brandon. Hackett was the photographer. Awesome.

• Coaches and GMs have agents too. Bob Lamonte has been one of the best for decades. Every year, he has a setup in the back corner of the steakhouse Prime 47, with an open tab, for all his clients to come pop in for a hello. It ends up being a giant melting pot of coaches, GMs, media folks, and everything in between. I popped over one early afternoon and was pleased to meet Colts special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone for the first time. Ventrone was the star of the in-season version of “Hard Knocks,” leading meetings and getting me ready to run through a wall every Tuesday night. A former player, he was great to hang with and has countless stories. As I was BS’ing with him at “Lamontapalooza,” Chiefs GM Brett Veach swung by, noting he and Andy Reid were going to the Butler-Villanova game in a few days, and asked if we wanted to join. Ventrone, a Villanova alum, chimed in to say the ‘Cats would be winning that game. We did not attend. The Wildcats did win.

2. I think, at 64, I’ll recover from the Combine experience by Friday. Yikes. That is some sleep-deprivation period there.

3. I think this was my Thursday, to illustrate what a day in the life of the Combine is for reporter types:

7:15 a.m.: Chargers coach Brandon Staley in his hotel lobby

8:05 a.m.: Bears GM Ryan Poles at his hotel

8:45 a.m.: PFF founder Neil Hornsby, breakfast, Café Patachou

10 a.m.: Rams COO Kevin Demoff, Kaffeine Coffee Co., coffee

11:35 a.m. Panthers coach Matt Rhule/EPSN college football reporter Pete Thamel, lunch, Café Patachou

1 p.m.: Bears coach Matt Eberflus at his hotel

2 p.m.: Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell at his hotel

2:45 p.m.: Raiders coach Josh McDaniels at his hotel

4:15 p.m.: Meeting with AFC team PR person to discuss future plan

5 p.m. Leave hotel for fundraiser with other NFL media

5:30-7 p.m. Fundraiser for Teachers’ Treasures at Sun King Brewing, downtown Indianapolis

10:25 p.m.: Meeting with NFL GM in his room after evening workouts/meetings

11:55 p.m.: Back in room at JW Marriott. Sleep

eberflus
Bears coach Matt Eberflus and NBC’s Peter King. (NBC Sports)

4. I think that is a crazy time, obviously, but it’s the combine. I’ve grown to love it. Time stops, and you just dive into the job.

5. I think the player that seems most interesting to me high in the draft is Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner. He’s a 6-3 corner who never allowed a touchdown in his last three years of coverage, in 1,100 snaps. He’ll need to bulk up a little, but a 4.4.1-in-the-40 corner that size is special, and he’ll certainly go in the top eight or 10. Deservedly. 

6. I think the best line I heard at the combine was this from Chargers coach Brandon Staley. When he got home from the heartbreaking Week 18 loss to the Raiders, he and his wife both got Covid. His three children had to stay home from school while the Covid dissipated, and that meant 10 days at home with three fired-up boys. The loss, and the Covid, and the packed house “Talk about adding insult to injury,” Staley said. “Lot of friction in the Staley household then.”

7. I think Brian Griese-to-San Francisco-as-QB-coach looks stunning, unless you consider three things: The writing was on the wall for Griese regarding the “Monday Night Football” gig after the hiring of Troy Aikman to do color. He was not going to be back in 2022 Griese, a Michigan quarterback, was drafted 91st overall by Denver coach Mike Shanahan in 1998 Griese played quarterback for Tampa in 2004 and 2005, and one of his coaches was a quality-control guy on offense, Kyle Shanahan. So, as the Niners try to move past losing QB coach Rich Scangarello to Kentucky as offensive coordinator, Griese takes his first job in coaching with a very familiar head man. 

8. I think the best thing that has happened to the Buffalo Bills this year, at least off the field, was the ascension of Kathy Hochul to governor in the wake of the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She’s a western New Yorker, and she wants to assure a long-term home for the Bills. That’s a big reason why the Bills should have a new stadium in Buffalo, and soon.

9. I think one of the things I love about the combine is talking to so many young writers, so many media folk hungry to be good. People like Tom Pelissero, Jeff Darlington, Stephen Holder, Tashan Reid, Kaelen Jones, Josh Tolentino, Jori Epstein, Safid Deen, Kalyn Kahler, Chad Reuter. This business is in great shape.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Happy 90th birthday (Friday) to a true legend of football, Gil Brandt.

b. Podcast of the Week: The Battle for Kyiv, from “The Daily,” the New York Times’ podcast on world events. This episode features one of the paper’s correspondents, Sabrina Tavernise, reporting from Kyiv.

c. The reason why I picked this pod is because Tavernise takes a recorder around the city and just listens to everyday people pouring their hearts out about the insanity of an instant war, a war no one in Ukraine understands. The frustrations, the heartache, the total and absolute unknown of this war You’ll hear it all, in very human terms. Reported Tavernise from the streets of Kyiv:

TAVERNISE: It’s 10 a.m. in Kyiv. I’m walking out to the main street in front of the hotel. I just saw an ambulance go by. Another ambulance. It was a really loud night. There was fighting as close as the zoo, which is in the western part of the city. Russian forces reached quite far into Kyiv last night. We’re gonna go out and check things out this morning. So I’m standing outside an office where people are signing up to do territorial defense work or receive weapons. The line is quite long. It’s a courtyard, a lot of men milling around. Man says, “Where do we sign up?” I’m going to talk to them.

TAVERNISE: My name is Sabrina, I am a journalist for the New York Times. Can I talk to you?

ANDRE: Nice to meet you. My name is Andre.

TAVERNISE: Why are you here today?

ANDRE: … “I feel I need to protect my house, my home place. They want to destroy us. They didn’t identify us as a nation. But we are … They need to kill a lot of people to kill a nation. It’s not possible. It’s not possible.”

d. So I picked the winners for my blood-donation contest. To review: Because the blood supply has crashed all over the country—people more hesitant to give because of Covid things—I asked you to donate a pint of blood or a bag of platelets, and I’d pick out one name, and go to your town and have lunch with you and a guest. We got 203 donors to submit proof of donation by end of day last Tuesday. Instead of writing down 203 names on pieces of paper and picking one out of a hat, I put those names into a website called Wheel Of Names and randomly generated a winner. We picked a contest winner first, followed by a first runner-up, and a second runner-up. Thanks for all of the entries and all the blood and platelets donated during this time of need. I am fired up that 203 of you, including about 36 new donors, stepped up to do it. I decided to do something for two additional donors who showed up when we spun the imaginary wheel.

e. The winner: Richard Behan of Dover, N.H. He’s donated about 21 gallons since 1974. It’s great he’s able to be recognized for all that selflessness.

f. Runner-up one: Steve Huffman, of Leavenworth, Wash., in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains. I remember his email—he hoped if he won that instead of a meal, he’d be getting a donation to his favorite cause: The Alpine Lake Backpack Program, which provides food to needy students when they go home for the weekend, to be sure they’ll be able to eat three meals on Saturday and Sunday.

g. Runner-up two: David Elliott, Fort Walton Beach, Fla. I’ll visit David, a retired Air Force weather forecaster and Bucs fan, later in the year when I’m in the area, and we’ll go to lunch. He was one of those drawn to giving by the contest. “I know I really should be giving blood, and your contest was the push I needed,” he said.

h. That was fun. Let’s not give up now. Donate, donate, donate. Thanks to everyone who answered the call to give blood, and who will continue to do so.

i. Sad Story of the Week: Erin Heffernan of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, on Serge Zevlever, a man who lived his life to find homes for Ukrainian adoptees, and who died needlessly because of it. Wrote Heffernan of Zevlever:

“In his decadeslong work as a central figure in adoptions of the neediest Ukrainian children to U.S. families he would split his time between the St. Louis area and Ukraine, helping hundreds of children with medical needs out of orphanages and into welcoming homes.

And on Feb. 26, two days after Russian forces launched an invasion of Ukraine, Zevlever, 62, was again a protector when he volunteered to check on commotion outside of a Kyiv bomb shelter during the assault.

He was shot in the chest and killed by a sniper fighting for Russia as family members looked on.

“Everybody knew Serge in the Ukrainian adoption world,” [parent of four Ukrainian adoptees Carla Dobravits] said. “So today I’m just heartbroken about the personal loss, but also what it means for all the children who he might have helped.”

j. The death of innocents, as in most wars, is just so needless, so awful.

k. One of the things that is so striking when you spend three or four days covering an all-consuming event like the NFL Scouting Combine is you tend to lose track of the world for a few days. And to see the combine world go on as normal, with the 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. days, and then step out of it and resume keeping up with life on planet earth just a strange juxtaposition.

l. Yes, I did see Elton John last Tuesday in Brooklyn. Five things struck me.

m. At 73, Elton played for 2 hours, 20 minutes. Nineteen songs. Did a smashing four-minute piano solo to cap “Rocket Man,” saved “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Crocodile Rock” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” for near the end, and had an emotional version of “Your Song.” Tremendous evening. As I said last week, this was my second Elton show, the first being 46 years ago, on the night of our nation’s Bicentennial in Foxboro. It was a little emotional, listening to the songs I blasted in my Ohio U dorm 45 years ago.

n. He didn’t have the crazy Elton John energy that characterized the young shows of his skinny days, but he absolutely did not cheat the crowd when he walked around to greet the crowd (17,000, I’d guess, at Barclays Center).

o. This was his 116th show in New York, he said. His first was in 1970. Imagine being able to still make a big crowd get on its feet 52 years after his first show. Amazing.

p. He got emotional at the end—seemed to get choked up, saying goodbye to his traveling life. (This, he said, is his farewell tour. It’ll end in November in Dodger Stadium.) Said he had two boys he needed to tend to back in England. Said he’d take the love from this crowd into his heart and remember it when he got back home. That was nice. 

q. Man, he must love America. Stops on his tour in the next five weeks include Fargo, Des Moines, Lincoln, Grand Rapids and Hershey.

r. “I’m Still Standing!” Fargodome! March 19! Be there!

s. I realize that Portland passing on Michael Jordan to draft Sam Bowie will stand alone in basketball history atop the list of bad draft decisions. But Ja Morant getting picked after Zion Williamson 2.5 years ago is gaining traction for the top 10.

t. I would assume baseball will come to its collective senses this week, but we shall see.

u. Not sure anything in sports qualifies as a real surprise anymore. But Rutgers men’s basketball team with a five-game winning streak over Indiana? That knocks me back a bit.

v. LeBron with 56 Saturday night, and Jayson Tatum 54 Sunday afternoon. LeBron beat Curry. Tatum beat Durant and Kyrie. Quite a weekend. 

w. Nets have played 65 games. They’re 32-33. They very likely will have to win one of those play-in things to even make the real Eastern Conference playoffs. Be careful what you wish for, wanting a team of superstars. 

x. I see you, Greg Bedard. Proud of your willpower and your drive. Watch out—you just might inspire me.

y. Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes,” this is the best TV piece I have seen on the Russian war on Ukraine, as it involves Poland. Thank you for it.

Wow, Jordan Davis.

Thing is, though, DT’s never

run for 40 yards.