A key audition

NFL prospects face big week in Mobile

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 12:02 a.m.

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) - First there's the weigh-in, often followed by a series of personality tests. Stop watches and cell phones are the tools of choice.

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Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer of Southern California runs drills during the South team's Senior Bowl practice Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. The 54th annual Senior Bowl will be played Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile.

The Associated Press

It's Senior Bowl time, a weeklong audition for most of the top NFL prospects.

"Every college football player knows about this game and knows that it's the game to play in," Southern California quarterback Carson Palmer said. "Every coach is here, every NFL personnel person is here, so it's a great opportunity."

Palmer is the first Heisman Trophy winner to play in the game since Auburn's Bo Jackson in 1985.

Considered one of the top two quarterbacks available -- along with Marshall's Byron Leftwich, who's nursing an ankle injury -- he said coming to the game was a no-brainer.

"I've always wanted to play in this game," Palmer said.

The actual game -- North vs. South -- is played Saturday, but the NFL folks are finished long before that. The league's 32 teams sent a record of more than 700 people to the game, Senior Bowl spokesman Vic Knight said.

Dozens crowd around various practice drills, scrutinizing prospective draft picks for everything from footwork to quickness to coachability and smarts.

"This is the best bowl game to be at," said Detroit Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg, who's coaching the South. "If you're going to pick one, you would come here, typically. Because every GM, scout and coach _ I would say 95 percent of them are here. All those that aren't in the playoffs are here.

"It's also a chance for NFL execs to get lots of face-to-face time with players they're thinking of investing millions in."

The Houston Texans got a firsthand look at Fresno State's David Carr at last year's Senior Bowl, and he made a favorable enough impression that the Texans made him the No. 1 overall pick and the expansion franchise's first selection.

"We spent a lot of time with him one-on-one," said Houston's Dom Capers, who's coaching the North. "Anytime you're going to take a guy No. 1, you're going to know what he's all about."

The week of sessions gives coaches more time to evaluate players than the combines or private workouts.

"In my mind, there's no better workout than to have a player here for a whole week," Capers said. "You see how he picks things up in the meeting room and how he carries it over into practice, and you see how he performs on the practice field in a lot of the same drill situations that you're going to put him in once you have him."

The Texans have 13 picks in the seven-round April draft, including No. 3 overall.

The players, who arrived over the weekend, get their first taste of football as business. They all come in prepared for one thing: The New York Giants' version of the ACT, given to all prospective draft picks.

"The Giants test is famous," Penn State's Michael Haynes said. "It's 300 questions -- would you rather be a cat or a dog? Questions like that. The Giants think it's worth it or they wouldn't be doing it."

It's all in the name of safeguarding a team's investments.

"You know that coming in," Palmer said. "That's just how the system works. They're looking for every flaw that they can find."

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