INDIANAPOLIS – LeCharles Bentley has a way to make the scale irrelevant – at least for offensive linemen. But can he get NFL people to believe the numbers he knows Bobby Massie can put up this week at the NFL scouting combine, figures that could vault Massie into the first round of April's draft?
If so, Bentley may be onto an important development in offensive line training.
Bentley, a former Pro Bowl center whose career was derailed by a knee injury and subsequent battle with a staph infection, is becoming an offensive line guru. His best work has been with marginal players such as C.J Davis and Montrae Holland, helping them stay in shape and in the league.
In Massie, who played right tackle at Mississippi, Bentley has something different. Massie has the size (6-foot-5, 318 pounds) and wingspan to project as a left tackle in the NFL – a more important position because the left tackle protects a right-handed quarterbackâs blind side. Massie's problem is that the quickness and explosiveness necessary to play in the pros wasn't consistently evident in college, where Massie played exclusively on the right side.
"To be fair to the kid, I only looked at one game he played," said one NFL offensive line coach who declined to be identified. "It was the Georgia game and I just didn't see the footwork and the quickness you're talking about for left tackle. Now, I'll watch at least four games before we line them all up on the draft board, but I didn't see what you're typically looking for in the first round."
Bentley understood the point, but …
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"To say he doesn't have that ability, I would totally disagree with that opinion," said Bentley, who has spent the past two months working with Massie at an exclusive workout camp for offensive lineman in Cleveland.
"What happens with big guys on the offensive line is the teams just put them out there and say, 'Go get it done.' The physical stuff, like working on the torso and the hips to make a guy more explosive and limber, that stuff goes by the side. It's like, 'Just go get that guy blocked, don't worry about how you do it.' "
With that in mind, Bentley started his training camp for offensive linemen in 2008 with the intent of working with guys on all levels of their game, from conditioning to watching film.
"I'm just trying to give guys as much help understanding what they have to do to make a career out of this," Bentley said.
Offensive line coaches around the league are starting to notice Bentley's work. Holland returned to start the final 10 games for the Dallas Cowboys after getting cut in training camp because he was overweight. He got into shape working with Bentley.
One of the biggest ways Bentley did that was to erase the "fear of the scale."
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Bentley laughed, knowingly, at that concept. "When you're a big guy and you have to weigh in, you hate it. You hate the scale," he said.
In just about every locker room, when offensive linemen get on the scale, the defensive backs start buzzing around to check out the number and then run their mouths with a series of fat jokes.
"Man, you just want to wring those little guys' necks," Bentley said. "When it's nothing but offensive linemen in the building, though, it's not some big problem. Guys don't get on each other's case, they work together."
Massie's case is a little different. His issue is less about weight and more about ability. So far, he's noticing substantial changes, starting with his feet. In college, Massie would get into his stance duck-footed, unable to straighten his feet because his hips were so tight. The result: slowness.
"Man, just that little thing helps so much with balance and you're explosiveness," Massie said. "Right now, my quickness and speed is so much better. … I know I'm going to rip it up at the combine."
If that happens, Massie has a chance to sneak into the first round. This year's draft features only two tackles who project to play on the left side – Matt Kalil of USC and Riley Reiff of Iowa. The rest of the group, including Jonathan Martin of Stanford, is questionable.
Scouts and front-office officials are leery of workout warriors. It was in Indianapolis in 1995 when former Boston College linebacker Mike Mamula vaulted his way to the No. 7 overall pick in the draft. He entered the combine considered a second- or third-round pick.
He then put on a show. Measuring at 6-4 and 248 pounds, Mamula ran a 4.58 time in the 40-yard dash, which was blazing for a linebacker his size. He had a 4.03 short shuttle, a vertical leap of over 38 inches, 28 reps in the bench press and topped that off with a 49 (out of 50) on the Wonderlic test for intelligence.
He was so good that the Eagles gave up a first-round pick (No. 12 overall) and two second-rounders to move up to No. 7 to get him (along with a third-round pick).
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Mamula, though, really couldn't play, at least not to the level of a top pick. Over a six-year career, he finished with 31.5 sacks and 209 tackles, barely pedestrian numbers.
While Massie probably won't pull a Mamula, the question is whether any improvement he makes will be taken seriously.
"Anything those guys can do is going to help them," Denver Broncos offensive line coach Dave Magazu said. "What LeCharles is doing can only help those guys."
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- LeCharles Bentley