INDIANAPOLIS -- Ian Rapoport is on the ground in Indianapolis, canvassing the hallways of Lucas Oil Stadium, hotel lobbies and everywhere else seeking the latest rumors and intel around the NFL. Here are five things folks are buzzing about right now:
1) The Kansas City Chiefs like Alex Smith, Luke Joeckel. The Chiefs are in the full evaluation mode of the entire organization, with general manager John Dorsey still in the process of figuring out the team he has. But word is starting to leak of their interest in the San Francisco 49ers' backup quarterback. At this point, based on what I'm hearing, Kansas City has shown more interest than anyone else in dealing for a quarterback who could step in and start from Day 1 while the rest of the franchise is rebuilt. The 49ers spent this week trying to lay ground for a Smith deal, and they'll do the same next week before trading becomes an official option on March 12, when free agency begins. Plus, the Chiefs could draft a developmental quarterback and know Smith won't tear the place apart if he's replaced. Apparently, the Chiefs are also high on Joeckel, the Texas A&M offensive tackle. If they're planning to take him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, they could let Branden Albert -- their own stellar left tackle -- walk in free agency, where he'll get a ton of interest. We'll know all of this before April's draft. If Albert becomes available, the Chiefs will have tipped their hand.
2) Don't expect to see Reggie Bush in Miami in 2013. Bush redefined his career with the Miami Dolphins, arriving from the New Orleans Saints with a chip on his shoulder, looking to prove he can run between the tackles. He did that in 2011, rushing for 1,086 yards in a way the Saints organization never believed he could do. And last year, he was a productive member of the Dolphins, even at $4.5 million in salary. Just don't expect this relationship to continue. I'm told the Dolphins and Bush's representatives met earlier in the week and parted ways with both sides thinking it's "unlikely" he'll be back in Miami. The Dolphins view him as a luxury, and Bush might be asking for a bit too much money from a team that sees him in that light. With Miami getting a little more than expected from 2012 fourth-rounder Lamar Miller, Bush is expendable. GM Jeff Ireland told me earlier this week that the Dolphins need someone with Bush's "skill set" on the roster; now it makes sense why he didn't simply say, "We need Reggie on the roster." Early returns on a possible destination for the soon-to-be 28-year-old RB? The Detroit Lions would make sense, as they're still looking for a replacement for Jahvid Best.
3) Manti Te'o is repairing his reputation in a big way. Te'o's highly anticipated news conference was the biggest media event of the NFL Scouting Combine. What we saw was impressive. Te'o was polished and poised, even showing a little emotion and giving us a window into how he felt about his catfishing scandal affecting his family. But the bigger test for him was his interviews with NFL teams. That's where the crucial judgments are made. And things are looking up for the Notre Dame linebacker. I spoke with someone in the room for one of his 18 interviews Saturday night (he'll do 20 overall), and the response I received was, "He was great. Very genuine." How will his scandal affect him? "Should not be an issue," the person told me. "Very classy kid. An odd situation, but he has a lot less problems than some of the players that have multiple arrests and major problems." Sounds like a big week for Te'o after a trying few months.
4) Where's the buzz in Indy? Free agency kicks off at 4 p.m. ET on March 12, which is more than two weeks from today. The period used to begin just a few days after the combine, which made Indianapolis rumor central. Not so much anymore. In fact, agents say it's been quieter than they can ever remember, when it comes to deals being done and tampering. Many teams are refusing to talk numbers when discussing deals with their own free agents. There's too much time between now and free agency to shop and see who can match up. Plus, not to say everyone is playing by the rules, but many teams are waiting until that new three-day anti-tampering period to throw numbers around, rather than do it now. (A big change that just might have the desired effect.) That explains the near silence this week.
5) A major annoyance for new coaches. Coaches are, by nature, pragmatists. They are told the rules, they process them, and they work within them. If the rules change, they learn those. Yet, in talking to several new coaches this week, they appear a little miffed by the NFL's rule prohibiting them from talking to their players until April 1. Each time you ask about it, they sound the same refrain. When I asked Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone about his quarterback situation, he said "unfortunately" he's not in a position to offer a definitive answer because he hasn't sat with incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. Talk with Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski, and he'll respond similarly -- as in, how much can you deduce from just watching players on film? Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley answered most questions with generalities on Saturday, saying, "All this stuff right now is great, but I can't wait until April when we get our players in house to communicate the vision." He's not alone. No doubt, it sets new coaches back, even if they get a two-week head start on returning coaches.
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