- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS — Kory Lichtensteiger sat inside a hotel room here four years ago, an offensive line prospect eager to transition from his collegiate career at Bowling Green State to the NFL.

Interviews with NFL executives are one component of the league’s annual scouting combine, what amounts to a four-day job interview for NFL hopefuls. Lichtensteiger responded methodically as a coach from an AFC team rapidly fired questions.

“What’s the best game you had last season?” came first.

Next: “What position do you think you project as in the NFL, guard or center?”

Then: “What do you think your 40 [-yard dash] time will be?

And then the kicker, right in rhythm.

“OK, when’s the last time you smoked crack?” the coach asked.

Lichtensteiger paused. Did he hear that correctly?

“Uh, I’ve never smoked crack,” he countered.

Such questioning — straightforward, outrageous and everything in between — is just one of the methods NFL teams will use to poke and prod college prospects at this year’s combine, which begins Wednesday evening.

Off-the-field interviews and standardized on-field workouts help serve as the framework for teams to evaluate prospects and shape their rankings for the draft in late April. For the players, it’s a taxing process with considerable stakes. The higher they’re drafted, the more money they’ll make on their rookie contract.

“I think I blocked it out because it was not a fun thing for me,” Lichtensteiger, the Washington Redskins left guard, recalled Tuesday. “It was just stressful. You realize how much is riding on it.”

Redskins officials began arriving Tuesday night. Interviews with and medical examinations of prospects commence Wednesday evening, and on-field workouts begin Thursday.

For the third straight combine since coach Mike Shanahan took over, the Redskins are in search of a marquee quarterback that could stabilize the position for years. They coached three college quarterbacks — Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Arizona’s Nick Foles and San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley — at the Senior Bowl last month, and this week they’ll evaluate others, including Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill.

Griffin is the most intriguing. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner hopes to increase his stock and at least challenge Stanford’s Andrew Luck for the title of first player drafted. In the process, he could entice teams such as Washington to trade up to select him.

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