*From former first-round picks to fringe players hoping for one more chance, the NFL's inaugural Veteran Combine that took place Sunday in Tempe, Ariz., gave players a chance to showcase their talents in front of all 32 teams. *
Longtime NFL defensive end Adam Carriker put it best when asked what the Veteran Combine means to a player in his position.
"I was out of sight out of mind," he said to NFL.com. "That's why this is great for me, I can remind teams 'Hey, I'm still alive. I can still play this game.'"
The NFL on Sunday hosted the inaugural Veteran Combine in Tempe, Ariz., for players still looking to find a home on a roster this offseason.
For some like Carriker, a former first-round pick for the St. Louis Rams who was most recently with the Washington Redskins, they had experienced success in the NFL before, while others may had just been role players before, but still believe they can make an impact in the right situation.
In front of scouts from all 32 NFL teams, players participated in position-specfic drills similar to what you’d see at the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis for draft prospects.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said that two quarterbacks in particular stood out in drills – Mike Kafka and Tyler Wilson.
Kafka served as a backup to Michael Vick for two seasons in Philadelphia, while Wilson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, has been on three different teams but has yet to make a regular-season appearance.
“Mike Kafka was around with the Philadelphia Eagles, I’ve never seen him throw it as well as he did on the field here today,” Jeremiah said. “And then Tyler Wilson. I think both these guys are going to have a chance to get on a roster, they’re going to have a chance to make a football team. A huge success for this inaugural Veteran Combine if both these guys can stick.”
The NFL hosted the inaugural Veteran Combine in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday, March 22, 2015. Here's a gallery of some of the players who participated in drills.
Solomon Wilcots, meanwhile, really liked what he saw out of former Detroit Lions running back Mikel Leshoure.
The Illinois product was very productive during his rookie season, rushing for 798 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games, but hasn’t recorded a carry since Week 6 of the 2013 season.
He was not on a roster in 2014.
“I loved the way that he ran,” Wilcots said. “He moved very well. Now, he was never really a real fast or quick-twitch type of player, he was always explosive and had plenty of good power. I thought he looked really well, ran over his feet really well and moved good. I think a team is going to take a flier on him. I think once he gets into camp, he’ll be able to make some plays.”
Another back that drew attention was Michael Bush.
A veteran of seven NFL seasons, Bush experienced his best seasons with the Oakland Raiders from 2008-2011.
The powerful 245 pounder bruised his way to a career-high 977 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.
While he’ll never be mixed up with some of the fastest backs in the NFL, he’s worried that his unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.91 seconds may scare teams off.
Perhaps no player received as much media attention as Michael Sam, though.
The former SEC Player of the Year failed to hang on with both the Rams – the team that drafted him in the seventh-round of the 2014 NFL Draft – and then was signed to — and soon released from — the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad last season, but believes he has the ability to still stick with a roster.
"As long as I still have that will, as long as I'm still healthy, and can play this game you will continue to see me fighting to get in this league,” Sam told reporters.
As league rosters start to fill up over the next few weeks and months, there’s a growing confidence that several players that appeared on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice field could be at other NFL facilities soon.
“I spoke to seven or eight personnel guys here who said undoubtedly that there is going to be a sizable portion of players who competed in this Veteran Combine that will be on a 90-man offseason roster,” said Steve Wyche. “Will they make active roster? That’s up to them once they get with a team.”