MOBILE, Ala. — Any signs of a "rookie wall" in the NFL can really be traced back to this week in Mobile. For many prospects, this is the start of a grind unlike anything they've experienced in the sport.
Prospects go from playing in a bowl game to the Senior Bowl to pre-Combine training (often in a faraway training facility) to the stressful Combine to pre-draft visits/training to the NFL draft to rookie camp to OTA's to minicamp — come up to breathe briefly — and then training camp begins.
Bills guard John Miller spoke about this a bit toward the end of his rookie season.
Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland is only two weeks removed from winning a national championship but, no, there wasn't much time to celebrate. Ragland quickly redirected to Senior Bowl Week where he's hoping to show NFL teams he can also play outside linebacker.
"I just want to show that I can cover and rush the passer," Ragland said on Monday. "I want to show that I can do multiple things at the next level. I know I can play inside, but I want to be able to show that I can play outside too. If a guy goes down, I want to show I can go out there and play it too and not miss a beat."
At inside linebacker in Nick Saban's defense, Ragland was an unanimous first-team All-American with 102 tackles (6.5 for loss), two forced fumbles and seven pass break-ups. He'll be one option at No. 19 overall for the Bills to consider.
While some top senior prospects turn down Senior Bowl invites, Ragland called it "a prestigious game," and said it'll "help my brain" playing with players from other schools.
Ragland was able to pick up where C.J. Mosley left off in Alabama's defense. And Saban's defense sends prospects to the pros annually.
"He taught me as a player to really pay attention to the detail of things," Ragland said. "That’s the type of coach he is. When we game plan, he’s going to go over every necessary thing we need to do as a team and I’m going to learn a new scheme, so I’m going to go into it with the right mindset and I’m going to try to pay attention to the details of that scheme."
While it was difficult to sit, to wait, Ragland got his shot in 2014 and 2015 and ran with it. A long slog now awaits, but if Ragland proves he has the range to play outside linebacker in addition to running a defense inside, it'll help his cause on draft day.
"I was going to wait my turn behind guys like C.J. Mosely, Nico Johnson and Trey DePriest," Ragland said, "and all those guys and it really made me a better football player and I had to become smarter as a player too. C.J. Mosely is one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with and if I had a question, I didn’t have to go to coaches because I could go straight to him and he broke it down to me the best way that I could understand it."
Practices for the North and South teams will begin later Tuesday. We'll have reports on the blog.