With various outlets reporting that Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett visits Paul Brown Stadium on Friday, the parade of prospects officially begins before the NFL Draft's first round on April 28.
The flurry won't stop until about two weeks before the draft and should include about 45 players, among them up to 30 of the top prospects. On April 13 NFL teams are also allowed to bring in players who grew up in the Cincinnati area or played their college ball here.
The Bengals won't confirm any of the visits, but it is pretty much the last public step in the process. They've already scouted them this past season, saw them at the NFL scouting combine, and have seen them at their Pro Days. The club may have also set up private workouts (as the Bengals have reportedly done with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton) and have up until the day before the draft to work out a player.
When the top prospects such as Mallett visit, there is no need for a workout. The hay is already in the barn there. And it's just not a meet and greet, although there is plenty of that once the player arrives from the hotel at PBS first thing in the morning and stays until about mid-afternoon. The prospect usually meets and chats with Bengals president Mike Brown and he may say hello to various staffers if time permits.
But along with visiting head coach Marvin Lewis' office, the guts of the visit are the meetings with the coordinator and position coach, as well as the doctors. Even though the prospects had a thorough medical look at the combine the last week in February, they go through another intense physical here during their visit as clubs try to get the most up-to-date health information they can.
It is the football exam that is the most important, particularly for a quarterback. Every position player goes through rigorous film sessions with the coordinator and position coach as they get their last, best shot to understand what the player understands. There have been bits and pieces of it in meetings during the combine and on campus, and the coaches, along with the area scouts, have also consulted with the college coaches when it comes to the learning curve. But the most in-depth session comes in the PBS offices.
And as far as Mallett is concerned, the more chances like this one, the better as he begins his monthlong effort to show teams the whispers about his lack of leadership and off-field problems are exactly that. Mallett, a 6-6, 240-pounder with blistering arm strength, has been ticketed as a possibility for the Bengals with the third pick in the second round despite his first-round throwing at the combine and in Fayetteville.
J.R. Carroll, a lawyer for a national firm based in Fayetteville, Ark., is one of Mallett's agents and says the visits play into the strategy for his client.
"Once people get to meet this guy and spend more and more time with him, the questions are going to wash away," Carroll said. "You see more and more of it as his teammates and coaches come to his defense."
There is more than a little bit of irony here. Mallett, the first of several quarterbacks to visit in the next two weeks, is also represented by David Dunn, the agent for Carson Palmer, the Bengals quarterback whose trade demand has sparked the club's canvassing of the position. So not only does Mallett have top local representation, but in Dunn he has an agent used to dealing with top quarterbacks. Carroll emphasizes his client's work in Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino's offense.
"The one thing everyone will tell you about Petrino's offense is that it is complicated," Carroll said. "With the restrictions you have in college, to have command of that kind of an offense and to perform at that high of a level, you have to be extremely self-motivated. He's shown that he's able to make the kind of checks and adjustments at the line like an NFL team does."
Carroll is flummoxed about reports attributed to teams questioning Mallett's leadership.
"We've had nothing but positive feedback from NFL personnel people," Carroll said. "You've got a guy like Petrino who is as hard-nosed as you can get and a no-nonsense guy, so you know he's not going to put up with one of his captains if he's not the same way. It tells you something he was voted a captain before he ever played a down. He showed that much leadership on the scout team."
Carroll confirmed Mallett's other visits that have already been reported: Seattle, Minnesota, Carolina, San Francisco, Miami. There are others not yet public, he said. The more, the merrier.
"The more he can sit down with people, we think it will help him," Carroll said. "Our advice is simple. 'Keep doing what you're doing. Just be yourself.' ''