Alabama Pro Day: In midst of ex-Tiders working out, Bozeman gets his chance
TUSCALOOSA — The words escaped Bradley Bozeman for a second, leaving the suddenly svelte center gasping for air and profusely apologizing while attempting to answer a question.
“Sorry,” he said, “still light-headed from those drills.”
Wednesday morning, when 80 scouts representing all 32 NFL franchises gathered inside the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility, was meant for players like Bozeman — the unheralded, perhaps undervalued, departing members of Alabama’s football dynasty.
“They don’t always get all the players that they’d like to come to the combine,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Today, with all the people being in here really helps a guy like Bradley get exposure.
Spring break required Alabama hold its pro day just two days after the NFL Combine concluded, leaving many of the 14 former Tide players who were in Indianapolis unwilling to participate in many on-field drills. Da’Ron Payne, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison only did team meetings.
Linebacker Rashaan Evans and defensive end Da’Shawn Hand did some positional work, both working one-on-one with new Titans coach Mike Vrabel.
Receiver Calvin Ridley, who woke up Sunday so tired from his combine journey he wondered if he’d be able to run on Wednesday, ran routes and caught passes from former Tide quarterback Blake Sims.
“I think I did real good,” Ridley said. “Just show that I got routes. That I can come out here and win and catch the ball and get up field and make the plays. I just wanted to let them know I have my routes, man, and I’m going to get open.”
Then there was Bozeman, the Handley High graduate who did not receive an invitation to last week’s NFL Combine — a victim of the numbers crunch the league faces each year with the bevy of early entrants.
Nor did slot receiver Cam Sims, two of the few former Crimson Tide players who were full participants in Wednesday’s Pro Day activities.
“It’s cool to get an invite, but I really wasn’t that worried about it, to be honest,” Bozeman said. “I knew we had a big stage here. Coach (Bill) Belichick was here. I know there were some other coaches here. It’s a really good event for us and it’s nice that all those guys do come out and see us.”
Belichick, a longtime friend of Saban, was one of four NFL head coaches present.
The Lions, Titans and Steelers each sent their head coach and general manager, reuniting Belichick and Matt Patricia — his former defensive coordinator who took the Lions head coaching job shortly after the Super Bowl.
Results of each drill were not distributed to reporters. Sims registered a 10-foot-3 broad jump. Hand-timing one of Sims’ 40-yard dashes yielded a time in the 4.6-second range.
Bozeman said he bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times despite sustaining a “slight pectoral strain” two weeks ago and in spite of a stunning weight loss.
The Rimington Award finalist weighed 317 pounds during January’s Senior Bowl. Questions lingered about his athleticism. Bozeman vowed to be down to 305 pounds by pro day.
Wednesday, he weighed in at 296, the lightest he said he’s been since seventh grade.
“(I) thought it’d be the nice thing to show that I had the discipline to drop weight and get down to a certain weight,” said Bozeman, who stood 6-foot-4. “No one’s really seen me at this weight before — no one’s seen me play at this weight — so I thought it’d be a good thing to show the scouts I could do.”
Eighty saw him Wednesday. Some question his position in the NFL, broaching the possibility of moving to guard or tackle.
“They think I can play at the next level, for sure,” Bozeman said.
“I think I did pretty well,” he added. “I think I was light on my feet today, had pretty good flexibility. Just everything I wanted to bring to this. Just a really good day for me.”