Cells on, TV off for Cougs eyeing NFL draft

ALEX BRINK

THINGS TEND TO GET QUIET in the days before the NFL draft as teams hunker down in war room meetings, but Cougar QB Alex Brink is still hearing from a number squads as the big weekend approaches. So are WR Michael Bumpus, OL Bobby Byrd and TE Jed Collins. Still, no matter what the projections are, only one thing is certain. "It's unpredictable," says safety Husain Abdullah. "No one really knows."

The draft, which starts this Saturday and concludes Sunday, will be of more than passing interest by a handful of Cougs hoping to hear the phone ring -- either as a late-round pick up or with an offer to sign as a free agent.

"I've gotten about five or six phone calls in the last couple days, most of them just wanting to check out your draft day phone number and ask a few basic questions," said Brink. "It's interesting because teams have it broken down now to the point of that big group of eight to ten quarterbacks that they have in the back end of the draft, each team is trying to cut it down to their three to four."

BRINK SAID his agent has been hearing positive things of late but Brink's also loathe to read to much into it or take anything for granted due to the ever-changing nature of the draft. Jacksonville, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Denver, Atlanta and New England are some of those Brink mentioned as showing the most recent interest.

"Jacksonville has three fifth round picks (Nos. 8, 23, 24) and they said they're..looking to take somebody in that range and they say they're interested in me, but who knows," Brink said. "The thing for me is going to be how many quarterbacks go on the first day. If five or six go in the first few rounds, that all of a sudden changes the demand in the back half of the draft. That's something I'll definitely be looking at."

Most of the draft pundits, such as Lindy's and The Sporting News, envisioned Brink as a seventh round draft pick or a priority free agent when those publications went to press. All cited his smarts, game management skills and durability as key attributes.

BRINK IS IN PULLMAN right now, as are Byrd (his roommate), Bumpus and Collins. Abdullah just recently left the Palouse for California and Brink will pack up for good and head home to Oregon on Friday. The group has spent the last several weeks doing two-a-day workouts three days a week, cardio and other drills on the other days.

"They're all hearing a lot of good things," said Brink. "Jed and Bump actually went over to Seattle last week to meet with the Seahawks. With Jed, the Browns came up and worked him out up here. Bump has had people calling him kinda like me in the last couple of days. He said he's had about 8-10 teams call."

Abdullah and Collins are each viewed as probable free agent or priority free agent picks by most of the draft pundits. A number have said Abdullah is a better athlete than his brother Hamza Abdullah of the Denver Broncos, but doesn't have the instincts of Hamza. All of which makes him a rather intriguing prospect.

As for Byrd, "Bobby is hearing a lot from his agent on teams that have needs for o-linemen and his agent is (talking with) the Steelers and Seahawks and teams like that," Brink reported. "It will be interesting because there are so many good offensive linemen early in the draft and that could be the same things as quarterbacks -- if a lot of them go early there's going to be a need late in the draft or as a free agent."

ABDULLAH SAID things have gotten quieter for him in recent days, partly by design.

"I'm just working out and getting ready for whoever's camp I'm going to be in," he said. "A lot of people like Eric Frampton and my brother have just said, 'Be patient. Don't read any of the stuff on the internet and go Google your name every hour.' Two weeks ago I was texting or calling my agent every other day but now I'm just taking it easy.

"Whether I'm drafted or not doesn't really matter too much ... I'm going to find out where I'm going and what I have to do to make the team."

HOW THINGS END up is anyone's guess. When the draft talk started in earnest back in November, most projected Brink as an undrafted free agent. Now, the buzz and contact might indicate more toward him being a draft choice.

"It feels that way--I think my performance at the (NFL) combine and the WSU Pro Day helped ... I think when people were able to see me in person and to workout, it helped to kind of change the opinion on my strengths -- but who knows," said Brink.

Brink and Abdullah will have their cell phones with them this weekend but they won't be watching much of the draft on Sunday. Abdullah will be celebrating his grandfather's 90th birthday with family and friends. Brink said he may watch some of the first day but then he and Chris Baltzer will play 18 holes on a Eugene golf course on Sunday.

"The last six weeks from the combine to the draft are one of the toughest things I think anyone in this position has to deal with...I didn't know it was going to be such a hurry up and wait thing..There's certainly a lot worse things I could be doing right now. At the same time, it's a helpless feeling not knowing. I could (soon) be in New York or Florida or Arizona or anywhere across the country starting a new life," said Brink.

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