INDIANAPOLIS — Bill Belichick is one of nine NFL head coaches not scheduled to meet with the media during this week's Scouting Combine. But the Patriots coach is in attendance, and remains a topic of conversation at Lucas Oil Stadium. Sort of.
A year ago, Belichick spoke up in front of his colleagues and expressed support for expanding the range of plays that coaches can challenge during games. Currently, it's limited to such plays as whether a ball was fumbled or caught, if a player was inbounds or out, where a ball was spotted, was the quarterback throwing, was it a lateral or forward pass. Penalties can't be challenged.
"Bill Belichick brought up a great point in our owners' meetings last year about allowing a coach to challenge a play if he decided it was worthy. I'm in favor of that," said Raiders coach Jack Del Rio. "If we have an opportunity to get something right, let's use that change to get it right. That's what he was saying. If it's wrong and we have a chance to make it right with indisputable evidence, then let's do it. I'm supportive of something along those lines. We'll see where it goes."
There seems to be growing sentiment for that, although it would take the competition committee to enact it.
"Whatever gets it right. Whatever we can do to get as close to being exactly right on game day, I think everybody wants [that] without slowing the game down," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "Without slowing the pace of the game down and having big delays but trying to get things right, I think we're all in favor of that."
Only one team can definitively make plans for which player they'll select in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, and that's the Tennessee Titans, because they have the No. 1 pick. The Titans picked second a year ago, drafted quarterback Marcus Mariota, then went 3-13.
Mariota was sacked 38 times in 12 games as a rookie, so getting someone up front to help protect him seems to make the most sense. Multiple mock drafts have the Titans selecting Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil with the first pick.
Tunsil, obviously, would be OK with that.
"Being the No. 1 pick would be great," Tunsil said. "That's been my goal since I was a little kid."
New Titans general manager Jon Robinson, while dropping a few hints that Tunsil will be seriously considered, said he'll keep all options open.
"Whether we stick and pick or whether we can get an offer we really can't turn down, whatever decision we arrive at in April, we just want to come out of it a better football team," said Robinson, who was the Buccaneers' director of player personnel last year, when they had the No. 1 pick, and spent 12 years with the Patriots. "I would say with the first overall pick, we're looking to add an impact player."
Johnny on the spot
All signs point to the Browns parting ways with quarterback Johnny Manziel, and new coach Hue Jackson did little to dispel that notion, stressing how high character and good behavior will be expected from the players on his team. Since being taken in the first round two years ago, Manziel has had run-ins with the police, a stint in rehab, and made questionable decisions that he has been criticized for. It's all left Manziel's future in Cleveland rather tenuous.
"We made a statement two weeks ago about Johnny Manziel, and I'm going to stand by that. His future on our team will be addressed here pretty soon," Jackson said. "I want to make sure we all understand: That behavior will not be tolerated as we move forward. Our organization is going to take a stand, and we're going to move on from those kind of situations."
When asked if he'd welcome Manziel back to the team, Jackson, who spent the past four seasons with the Bengals — the last two as offensive coordinator — said, "It's like any other player. I'll go through the process of spending time with him, and see if it's the right fit for us."
The Browns have the No. 2 overall pick, with most draft experts predicting they'll use it on a quarterback, either Carson Wentz from North Dakota State or Jared Goff from California.
It's already been a good week for Ohio State's Adolphus Washington, and the defensive line combine participants aren't even expected to arrive in Indianapolis until Thursday. On Monday, Washington had a solicitation charge dropped in Columbus, Ohio, after he completed a program for first-time offenders prior to sentencing.
Washington was arrested Dec. 9, and was suspended by Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer from traveling with the team and playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Washington, a 6-foot-3-inch, 297-pound defensive tackle who had four sacks as a senior, is projected to be drafted before the end of the second round.
No word on Manning
Like everyone else, Kubiak is curious to see if Peyton Manning has played his last game in the NFL. Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Broncos coach is not expecting an answer from the veteran quarterback anytime soon.
"It's about him taking his time to work through things and think through things. There is no hurry here. I want him to enjoy what just took place," Kubiak said. "I think he and John [Elway] have had some conversations. I had a brief one with him yesterday. We will be talking probably today or this week. We want him to take his time and we'll work from there. Nothing has changed."
Harvard tackle Cole Toner said he's met twice with Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia: Once after flying to Indianapolis (they were on the same flight), then again on Tuesday night.
"Having seen them play and beat the Colts for so many years, it's one of the best [organizations], if not the best. That would be a great opportunity, if I played there," said Toner, an Indianapolis native who grew up a Colts fan.
Victor Cruz, who hasn't played since Oct. 12, 2014, because of knee and calf injuries, has a fan in new Giants coach Ben McAdoo, who certainly has plans for the former UMass star. "I had a chance to get in touch with Victor. He seems in good spirits. Looks great, feels good, and hopefully we get a chance to get him healthy," McAdoo said . . . Speaking of the competition committee, Rams coach Jeff Fisher stepped down, citing the team's offseason move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. "The time required of me as far as this move is concerned makes this really difficult to commit 100 percent," Fisher said. "I look at it hopefully as being a leave of absence." . . . Asked if he expects embattled (and injured) quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be on the roster this season, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said, "Absolutely. Colin's done some awfully good things in his career, won some big games for the San Francisco 49ers." . . . Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked about the sexual harassment controversy surrounding Peyton Manning from 20 years ago, when Manning was a student at Tennessee. "If we're all going to get nitpicked for what we did in college, we're all in big trouble," Arians said . . . The first on-field workouts at the Combine will be Friday, with the first three of 11 groups (running backs, offensive linemen, specialists) running the 40-yard dash and doing additional timing, station, and skill drills.