CS: During your time at the Shrine game, Iím sure you met with a number of teams. What teams did you meet with and were there teams that showed more interest in you than others?
Saffold: I basically talked with every team; they want to get your information, see what you can do on the field and critique you from those standpoints. The teams that showed the most interest in me were the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. There were a bunch of other teams I spoke with; it was just a pleasure to talk with every team, because they tell you what you should work on. It wasnít a situation where theyíre telling me, ĎOh, man we love you so much.í It was more like, ĎHey, what can you do for us?í And thatís something that you really have to think about and give them your answer on the spot; you have to be truthful. Iím an outgoing person, so I was able to do that easily. I told them who I was and they were very cordial to me as well.
CS: In those conversations with the teams, what did they say that you had to work on specifically and what aspects of your game do they like already?
Saffold: They like my athleticism; that I can move my feet, as well as recover. Of course they want me to continue to try and finish every block, which they want to see from every lineman. Finishing blocks is something you always have to work on. Also, they want to see better hand placement, not just from me, but from everyone, especially in the passing game. They want you in the right position at all times, thatís always critical, and they want you to be mentally prepared for the task at hand. Overall, the conversations were basic, but I expect a much deeper evaluation at the [Scouting] Combine.
CS: Other than the things they liked and didnít like about your game, were the questions primarily background checks or was there some chalk talk involved?
Saffold: They did some background checks. They didnít exactly want chalk talk, but they wanted me to explain the different fronts Iíve gone against. They wanted to know what I was looking for in different situations. For instance, if there was a safety coming over the top that pretty much means that the cornerback will try and jam the receiver on the line, or the corner is going to come inside for a blitz. Also, being able to look at the linebackers and see where theyíre rolling out; thatís big for an offensive linemen to see, because that can change your mentality in protection, and itís something you can let everyone know about so weíre all on the same page. Locating the linebacker is also crucial for the quarterback, so he can make good decisions throwing the ball. That was the kind of questioning I received; they wanted to test my football IQ.
CS: Thatís chalk talk type of questioning right there. What teams engaged in those conversations with you, because at games like the East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl, most of the discussion is generally background checks.
Saffold: I remember that the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, the Buccaneers; almost every team wants you to explain that stuff. They want to test your mental capacity and make sure that you can do your job and do it well. They already know what youíve been doing and what you need to do, so it comes down to you being able to tell them what youíre doing and if you are telling the truth
CS: This is a solid offensive tackle class, which is led by follow seniors, Oklahoma Stateís Russell Okung and Oklahomaís Trent Williams. Behind Okung and Williams, there are two juniors, Anthony Davis (Rutgers) and Bryan Bulaga. Obviously, teams want a talented lineman who can play immediately, and with you being a four-year starter, do you think scouts have a great appreciation for you, and did that help you during interviews at the Shrine game?
Saffold: They told me that being a four-year starter is a good place to start out with, but they also said that itís going to be more difficult at the next level reading coverages, understanding where the quarterback is going to go with the ball, where his launching point is and how you can attack the defensive linemen based on that point. Even though I have experience, I realize thereís going to be a lot of mental points to learn, which is going to be big heading into a training camp. I know that I have to learn to adapt, and I have to adapt fast.
CS: Each year, the strength of the NFL Draft is determined by the quality of underclassmen that declare. As I mentioned, there are two premier junior tackles that will likely be top 15 picks, and a third (Marylandís Bruce Campbell) who will intrigue teams at the end of the first round. With their presence in the draft they take precedence over talented seniors, including yourself. Did you look at the underclassmen list when it was made official, and does their presence motivate or discourage you?
Saffold: Oh, thatís just more motivation. There are really talented guys out there and when juniors come out, most of them have been playing for four years. But there are circumstances where youíre dealing with just a freak athlete. There are guys like that who declared this year, but I canít really worry about who comes out, I have to get my foot in the door first. If I start worrying about my competition and a teamís draft board, thatís when Iíll start to slip up and lose focus.
CS: Speaking of the draft board, have any scouts mentioned to you where you may be on their boards at this time?
Saffold: Iíve gotten mixed reviews; some has been from scouts, as well as guys like yourself. There are things all over the media about me being a second, third or even a fourth round pick. Iíve even heard that I could go in the late first round. It doesnít really matter to me where I go in the draft, obviously Iíd like to go as high as possible to be able to support my family, but I just want to play.
CS: How do you think the interview process is going to differ from the Shrine game to what youíre going to face at the Scouting Combine?
Saffold: I think theyíre going to be much more intense. The Shrine game makes things a little easier, because I got to talk with teams and it gave me some experience with the scouts. But I also know at the Combine the questions are going to be much more involved, and the answers have to be more detailed. I just want to be honest in that setting, because they already know the answers to the questions theyíre asking, they just want to hear the truth. [Laughs.]
CS: As you continue to train, and with the Combine approaching, what are you specifically working on to showcase your skills?
Saffold: Iím working on my technique and trying to improve all of my times. I want to continue to show that my athleticism can really save me in bad situations, and it allows me to recover from any type of move thatís laid in front of me. I want to continue to prove that I can make adjustments and that I know the person Iím going against so I can set myself up better in games. And, show that I can perform under pressure, because itís overwhelming pressure at the Combine.
CS: I know youíre a huge Cleveland Browns fan, and wearing that Browns uniform would probably be a dream come true. After a long day of training, have you had a chance to sit back and envision how draft day could unfold?
Saffold: Actually, after a long, hard day, I just think about what I have to do tomorrow to get better. Thatís pretty much what I look at. The draft is going to come, and I know thatís something I donít have control over. At the moment, I can only control whatís going to happen at the Combine, my Pro Day and my interviews and psychological test. Other than that, there isnít much I can do, and where I get drafted is out of my hands.
CS: The draft will follow a new structure this year with the first round being aired on Thursday night, the second and third rounds on Friday night and the remaining rounds taking place on Saturday afternoon. What are your feelings on the new draft setup?
Saffold: The draft is exciting to begin with; it doesnít matter what day itís on. It could be on a Monday and every one would be glued to the TV. I know that half of my community probably wonít even be at work. On draft day in the past, I was either sick, or I just wouldnít do anything; I was in front of the tube watching it all the way through the seventh round. I always look forward to draft day.
CS: But now that youíre in the draft, does the split schedule make it more nerve wracking considering thereís a chance you may have to wait two full days until you actually hear your name called?
Saffold: [Laughs.]Ö It could make me crazy, thatís for sure. I may even lose my mind waiting for my name to be called. But Iím not at that point yet. Ask me after the draft, and Iíll definitely tell you how I felt.