INDIANAPOLIS — Rufus Alexander admits that he would love playing for a team like the Indianapolis Colts. For that matter, any team that plays the Tampa Bay Cover 2 defensive alignment would be fine with the 6-foot, 227-pound outside linebacker.
Alexander, who earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors at Oklahoma last season, figures that his playing style is very conducive to the defensive system currently employed by several NFL teams, including Chicago, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and the Colts. In fact, the Sooners have used that alignment with pretty good success the last several years.
“That kind of system is pretty much made for a guy like me,” he said Saturday at the National Football Scouting Combine. “It’s more for your speedier guy on the outside, a guy who can make plays in space, make tackles on receivers and guys coming out of the backfield.”
The first player to lead Oklahoma in tackles in consecutive seasons since Rocky Calmus accomplished the feat, Alexander has been projected by some outlets as the third-best outside linebacker participating in the combine. Other publications have him ranked among the Top 10 best linebackers overall, regardless of where he lines up.
“I’ve got a great motor, great instincts. I play with a lot of emotion and enthusiasm. I’m just a competitor,” he said. “They say a lot of your stock goes into your 40 time, so I’d like to run a good 40 time and turn a few heads.”
• Players talk to Colts — In addition to Alexander, other players who have either already talked to Indianapolis officials or plan to meet over the next few days include Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley, East Carolina wide receiver Audrae Allison and Georgia Tech cornerback Kenny Scott.
Allison was timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash during one session for receivers on Sunday.
He had the fifth-best time in his group, behind Kansas State’s Yamon Figures (4.30). Washington State’s Jason Hill was second with a time of 4.32.
Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson, who is expected to among the top five players selected in the NFL draft, was clocked at 4.35, just ahead of Virginia Tech’s David Clowney (4.36) and Allison. The 6-foot-5 Johnson had his quick time despite weighing in 239 pounds.
Illinois State wide receiver Laurent Robinson, the lone Gateway Conference player in attendance at the combine, had a time of 4.38, which was good for second in his group.
• Official numbers — Out of the 330 players invited to take part in this year’s combine, all but three showed up. Two of the missing were due in Sunday, thanks to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Both players (Washington cornerback Dashion Goldson and Missouri defensive tackle Xzavie Jackson) had problems getting flights out of Dallas on Saturday due to weather problems.
Approximately 40 players tried to fly out of Indianapolis on Saturday night, but snowy weather forced cancellations of several flights. They were forced to stay one more night and most of the group had already flown out by Sunday afternoon.
A record 385 media credentials were passed out, with 22 head coaches addressing the media.
• Combine to stay in Indy — National Football Scouting combine officials signed a two-year contract extension at the conclusion of last year’s workouts, which means that the current contract with the Indiana Convention Center and RCA Dome will expire in 2008.
Jeff Foster, president of National Football Scouting, said Sunday that he envisions the combine remaining in Indianapolis for the foreseeable future.
“We’re here for another year, until 2008, after we signed a two-year extension with the city. [Indianapolis] is fantastic. We’ve got an opportunity to be here, not only this year but in 2008. And moving forward, we’ll start, probably in a couple of months, negotiating a new deal that would obviously put us in the new facility [Lucas Oil Stadium] in 2009 and beyond,” Foster said.
City officials and National Football Scouting agreed to the short extension with the idea that the combine would then relocate to the Colts’ new facility.
“It actually made sense to just go through [the spring of] 2008 because of the [availability] of the new stadium in 2009,” he said. The planned move to Lucas Oil Stadium would allow for the entire combine operation to be in a more centralized location.
“Right now we use a number of different facilities, like the Convention Center and the RCA Dome and the Grand Hall and Conference Center adjacent to the Crowne Plaza [Hotel] and, obviously, the Crowne Plaza. The new facility will actually allow us to put all events that we do under one roof as well as offering some new opportunities.”
While Saturday evening’s freezing rain and snow caused some grousing among those attending and working the combine, Foster pointed out that weather can be a problem anywhere.
“I’m a California kid, so I would love to be in California. But I think it makes the most sense right here. We’ve been here [since 1987]. It’s really important to maintain a consistency of the operations,” he said. “Obviously there’s some other cities that we’ve looked at and there’s other viable options. But right now, Indianapolis seems to be a great home for us.”
• Combine may open to public next year — With the interest in the combine growing among fans, there is a chance that it may be open to the general public beginning in 2008.
“There’s been discussions about it, certainly with the [NFL’s] competition committee,” Foster said. “I know that we’re working closely with the league office of football operations and player personnel. I know that presentation has been made to the competition committee. It was made in terms of 2007. But we were running too close to the event to make any decisions. There’s certainly a possibility [of the proposal to open up the combine to fans] moving forward.”