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Pettigrew cementing stock with effort at Senior Bowl practices

MOBILE, Ala. - Before he was barely able to take off his helmet following the North team's practice Tuesday morning, Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew was met by scouts from Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Atlanta about setting up interviews for later in the day.

Those won't be the last teams wanting to talk to -- or about -- the top-rated tight end prospect, who, after two days of drills, has done nothing to hurt his stock or first-round projection.

"I'm not real used to that, people reaching out, grabbing for me," said Pettigrew, who caught 112 passes in four seasons at Oklahoma State.

"What's probably helping me is that [NFL offenses] have opened up and teams are splitting big guys and tight ends out and have been trying to do more with them," Pettigrew said. "I fit that. I'm versatile but I am trying to be more complete being attached to the formation and being split out as well."

While Pettigrew said playing in a spread offense at Oklahoma State helped showcase him as a receiver, it opened up questions about his in-line blocking skills. At 6-foot-6 with very long arms, Pettigrew is trying to prove that he is more than capable of holding his own at the line of scrimmage and he did a solid job of sealing off edge defenders on sweep plays during team drills Tuesday.

"They threw us in there and have us doing it all," Pettigrew said of the practice regimen. "When I played early in my career, I wasn't getting it done blocking. I was undersized, about 218 (pounds). I'm up to 257, but I've gotten a lot more attention because we went to the spread."

Speed dating

Besides watching players on the field, player personnel officials spent and will spend hours interviewing players, then putting together reports to share with other team officials.

The set up: As soon as practices end, scouts and other team officials -- mostly guys who do their work out of the spotlight -- rush players to set up interviews for later in the day.

The interview: From late afternoon until early evening, players are interviewed in somewhat of a speed-dating forum. In lobbies and hallways of the Renaissance Riverview Hotel, players and team officials are propped up in chairs and couches. The tenor of some of the questions players are asked dealt with their parents' employment and what they may do for a living.

This process is merely a first step to what will take place on a grander scale at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Feb. 18-24. Going through this process now will allow teams to spend time at the combine interviewing underclassmen, who aren't at the Senior Bowl, as well as speak with seniors they weren't able to talk with at the Senior Bowl.

Williams yet to visit New Orleans

Gregg Williams, who was hired Jan. 15 as the Saints' defensive coordinator after not having his contract with Jacksonville renewed, said he has yet to visit New Orleans or meet with the entire coaching staff since being brought on. Williams spent just one season with the Jaguars in a role vacated when Mike Smith left to coach the Falcons and plans to get acquainted with his fellow coaches at the Senior Bowl.

Williams was hired by the Saints to replace Gary Gibbs, who was fired after the season. Gibbs, according to league sources, has spoken with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about an unspecified position.

With Jacksonville's staff coaching the South team for Saturday's Under Armour Senior Bowl, coach Jack Del Rio is also working as defensive coordinator for the all-star game. The dual roles for Del Rio are expected to be short-lived as the Jaguars likely will replace Williams with someone else.

Shopping around

The Senior Bowl is where most new coaches form their staffs and those coaches and other football types who are out of work shop themselves. Agents also try to recruit players here, as well as establish talks with team officials about upcoming free agency.

Several new coaches, like Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris, Detroit's Jim Schwartz and Seattle's Jim Mora were among those on hand but they kept themselves moving or under the radar while holding interviews for assistant coaches. Recently fired Dallas defensive coordinator Brian Stewart was at the morning practice for the North squad.

Personnel officials from the Chiefs were on hand in full force, not knowing how much longer they will have jobs after the hiring of former New England Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli as general Manager.

Two people with Kansas City's personnel department said they have no idea about their futures with the team but they are proceeding to fulfill their obligations until told otherwise.

Inside edge

The Bengals coaching staff, headed by Marvin Lewis, will coach the North team in Saturday's Under Armour Senior Bowl. The South squad is coached by Jacksonville's staff. Though the outcome of the game is far less important than the play of prospects, Lewis and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer might be trying to gain a competitive edge.

Both were in the stands of Ladd-Peebles stadium watching the South team practice in the afternoon, roughly two hours after they finished their morning workout. Although they might have gained some insight into what plays and schemes they will be facing, Lewis and Zimmer were paying more attention to prospect evaluation. Considering the Bengals are coming off a woeful 4-11-1 season and own the sixth pick in the draft, finding fresh talent is a priority.

Wind Chill

It was roughly 40 degrees for much of the day but even colder with the wind chill. Players and coaches said the elements weren't that bad, however, wind gusts during the South's practice in the afternoon didn't lead to overly accurate passing from quarterbacks Pat White (West Virginia), John Parker Wilson (Alabama) and Cullen Harper (Clemson).

Massive prospect

A prospect who is under close watch -- he is impossible to miss -- is LSU's All-American guard Herman Johnson. He's 6-7 and was said to weigh in at more than 370 pounds. Scouts are evaluating his footwork and consistency to see if they can match his intriguing size. He is the fourth-rated senior guard
by NFL Network's Mike Mayock.

Johnson also is said to be the heaviest baby recorded in Louisiana birth records.

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