MOBILE, Ala. -- Running backs Chris Rainey of Florida and Chris Polk of Washington were singled out for their outstanding play by their head coaches during Tuesday night's Senior Bowl press conferences.
South squad coach Mike Shanahan (Redskins) praised Rainey for his ability to play running back, slot receiver and split end. "He picked things up quickly," Shanahan said of the 5-foot-8, 178-pound Rainey, who rushed for 861 yards and caught 31 passes in his senior season at Florida.
Leslie Frazier (Vikings), head coach of the North squad, spoke at length about Polk, a 224-pounder who registered back-to-back 1,400-yard seasons for the Huskies. "You can see that burst that he has," Frazier said. "He could run through some of those 'thud' tackles." Frazier also said that Polk has the potential to be an effective pass protector.
Shanahan's praise for Rainey was surprising because the Redskins coach was reluctant to speak about any specific player after just two practice sessions. "I could give you a whole lot of generalities," Shanahan said when asked about another player, adding later that he could "B.S." but would need to watch more practice and tape before saying anything substantial about most players. Rainey was the only player to draw Shanahan's specific commentary.
Rainey did not seem fazed by the praise when he took the podium. When asked what adjustments he had to make to pick up Shanahan's system so quickly, Rainey leaned into the microphone and grinned. "Nothing," he said. "I'm fast. I'm quick to the game." Rainey, who projected an extreme level of self confidence (cockiness is such an ugly word), asserted that he wants to play running back, not some "slash" role in the NFL, and he rejected comparisons to Percy Harvin, another speedy runner-receiver from Florida. "I'm just Chris Rainey," he said.
Frazier's appraisal of Polk came after numerous questions regarding the Vikings running back situation. Frazier noted that Adrian Peterson (ACL) has not yet reached the point where he can run in a pool, but that he hopes to enter that phase of rehabilitation soon. Toby Gerhart also injured his left knee in the season finale, though Frazier said that he does not think the injury will affect Gerhart's offseason work. Frazier made it clear that he feels Gerhart can replace Peterson in the short term. Like any experienced coach, Frazier declined to single out any one area of need.
Note: At the start of Tuesday's practice, Wake Forest center Joe Looney did not have a jersey. He stretched and performed his first few snaps in just an undershirt and pads. Looney was a late replacement for Garth Gerhart (Arizona State), who suffered a finger injury on Monday. By the middle of practice, Looney had his own jersey, but by Tuesday night, he was on crutches with a torn ligament in his foot. The North will add another new center on Wednesday.