At N.F.L. Rookie Camps, Hype Rules the Day

Every rookie looks poised, confident, dedicated and sharp. Every coach is pleased. Optimism levels run somewhere just above “employee orientation seminar” and below “honeymoon.” The boffo reviews read like the school newspaper’s appraisal of the eighth-grade production of “Hello, Dolly!”

The camps, which began last week for many teams and continue through next week, give draft picks the opportunity to meet their coaches and undrafted free agents a brief chance to make an impression. They are invaluable to the players and the teams. As sources of hard-hitting analysis or insightful criticism, they are somewhat lacking.

Modest accomplishments earn bubbly praise. Accurately calling and executing a play earns a public pat on the back. “He’s unflappable, mature beyond his years,” Indianapolis Coach Chuck Pagano said of quarterback Andrew Luck, the top pick in the draft. “If you listen to some of those play calls that our offensive coordinator Bruce Arians gave him, I know why he’s an architectural engineer.” Arians’s terminology is apparently based on trusses and torsion calculations.

Not to be outdone, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan gushed about the second overall pick, Robert Griffin III. “You can see what an incredible athlete he is,” he said. “The first day we didn’t have one bust with a formation or a play call. I don’t think I’ve ever had that in any minicamp I’ve been involved with.” Take that, John Elway!

Quarterbacks invariably display outstanding “leadership qualities” at rookie camps, perhaps because there is no pressure whatsoever and they have been barking orders in huddles since their Pop Warner days. It is hard to imagine what a quarterback would have to do to show poor leadership skills during these film sessions, light workouts and noncontact drills — call out sick, perhaps? Or cower in a lavatory stall and refuse to come out to call a play?

of the has less experience than the other highly drafted quarterbacks because he played wide receiver for more than two seasons in college. But all rookie camp stories spin on the positive axis, so Tannehill’s familiarity with the Texas AM offense, which is closely related to the Dolphins’ new offense, actually gives him an edge on other rookies.

“I am sure, as opposed to some of the other rookie quarterbacks that are practicing, he probably feels a little more comfortable when he puts his head on the pillow at night,” said Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin, whose offense also features a high thread count and patented memory foam.

Tannehill’s first pass of rookie camp was an interception or, in rookie-camp speak, a perfect pass that bounced out of an unknown receiver’s hands and into an unknown defender’s arms. Griffin, meanwhile, hit on 14 of 20 passes in Redskins team drills, a 70 percent completion rate exactly as meaningful as his 78-of-84 performance against undefended receivers at his Pro Day. (Griffin himself called Pro Days beauty pageants.)

Off the field, players attended meetings and watched film, no doubt looking incredibly poised while doing so. Griffin watched game tape of Rex Grossman and Donovan McNabb running Shanahan’s offense, which is a little like showing rookie cops but true leaders can learn from counterexamples.

Quarterbacks are not the only players who draw praise during rookie camps. “He was excellent during his first day,” Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier said of offensive tackle , the fourth overall pick. “His ability to pick up information was encouraging as well.”

Kalil said that learning the Vikings’ playbook was simply a matter of translating terminology. “It’s like taking Spanish class in college,” he said. Undergraduate football players take note: dual-major in Spanish and architectural design, and you will become a playbook-absorbing machine when not designing Catalan arches.

Doing exactly what you were drafted to do can generate not only praise, but also the revelation that your coach has little idea whom his team drafted. “Josh caught a punt and he took off like a guy shot out of rocket, and I thought: ‘That guy has a nice little burst. I better see who that is,’ ” Frazier said of Josh Robinson, his team’s third-round pick.

Dolphins Take a Chance on an Accountant at Tight End

After high school, Brown played basketball for three years at Utah’s Westminster College before he became buried by paperwork for two years as an accountant in a private equity firm. His memories of playing football faded.

Then, a little more than a week ago, the 24-year-old Brown, after months of intensive training and an eye-opening performance at Brigham Young’s pro day, found himself as perhaps the unlikeliest of the 64 players on the field as the opened voluntary workouts.

Brown has been out of football so long that his return does not really classify as a comeback; surely no one at the professional level had heard of him before March 29. On that day, Brown ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and recorded a 39-inch vertical leap to draw the interest of a half-dozen teams, including the champion Giants.

“All I wanted coming out of the B.Y.U. pro day was a chance,” he said. “I know I have a lot of hard work to do. I’m ready. I just want to make the Dolphins look good.”

Brown’s return to football came about because he was trying to help his brother look good.

Chad Ikei, who runs a training center in Hawaii, met Brown last year when Brown was trying to find someone to work with his brother Braden, an offensive tackle for B.Y.U. with N.F.L. potential.

Ikei was impressed by the questions Brown asked and knew that when Brown was in high school, he had been approached by colleges that wanted him to play football. Ikei tried to persuade him to put his finance career on the sideline and follow an unlikely dream.

Brown was curious enough to meet with Ikei again last December when B.Y.U. played at Hawaii, and he soon decided to move to Oahu to train.

One of a dozen N.F.L. prospects who were working with Ikei, Brown had the furthest to go. After just two sprints on the first day, Brown ended up on the side of a hill in the fetal position, vomiting.

“I wanted to show everyone I meant business,” he said. “The first few reps I went 110 miles per hour. After that, I was gassed.

“That first day definitely opened my eyes.”

Brown had potential but had gone back to finish up his college degree and was recovering from shoulder surgery before he took Ikei’s challenge.

“His base starting point, it was, in the lightest way to put it, pathetic,” Ikei said. “He’s what we call a skinny fat kid. He didn’t have any muscle mass at the time.”

Three months later, Brown had gained 25 pounds, cut his 40 time by three-tenths of a second and trimmed his body fat in half — to 8 percent. He also tapped into the athletic ability and competitiveness that turned him into the defensive stopper for the Westminster College basketball team, which was ranked No. 1 in the N.A.I.A. for a time during Brown’s junior year.

“He responds to challenges,” Westminster Coach Adam Hiatt said. “He came into the program known for his offensive prowess and athletic ability. The challenge for him was to become the best defensive player in our league.

“He took that seriously.”

Brown is raw, but has the size (6 feet 4 inches, 238 pounds) and the athletic ability that teams are looking for as the tight end position evolves.

“The more multiple you can be with formations with certain body types on the field, you can create some advantages for you against the defense,” Joe Philbin, the new coach of the Dolphins, said. “The best-case scenario is he develops into a guy that’s got some versatility.

“He’s in what we call the infancy stage right now.”

So is Miami’s offense.

The team hired Philbin, the former offensive coordinator at Green Bay, and drafted Texas AM quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the No. 8 pick in the draft to improve a passing offense ranked 23rd in 2011.

Philbin relied heavily on tight ends in Green Bay, using as many as four in certain formations. It remains to be seen whether Brown, one of six tight ends on the Dolphins’ roster, will have a role with the team.

Either way, his makeover from an out-of-shape accountant to N.F.L. hopeful has made him a YouTube sensation, with a video drawing more than 1.3 million views.

Ikei has worked with roughly 200 N.F.L. players, including Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Wilson of the Arizona Cardinals. He said he had received 100 e-mail messages about Brown, from 12-year-old football players looking for advice to a 300-pound woman inspired to stick with an exercise program.

“It’s unbelievable; he’s touching so many people’s lives,” Ikei said. “It made my year of 2012. Nothing can top it. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do.”

The Dolphins signed Brown to a three-year deal. But Brown said he realized that in the coming months, as a former accountant with a basketball background, he was sure to be a target.

“I’m sure I’ll take my lumps,” he said. “I’m sure there will be some guys who want to knock the basketball guy out, so I’ll be keeping my head on a swivel. But at the same time, I want to get out there and put somebody on his butt, too.”

THE FIFTH DOWN; From Colts to Broncos, a Quarterback’s Wild Ride

If the two-week Peyton Manning Derby felt like a whirlwind to fans, imagine how it must have felt for Manning. The life of an in-demand millionaire may appear glamorous on the surface, but a closer look reveals a long succession of endless meetings, carefully choreographed flights, and long rides in suspicious-looking vehicles. Here is a recap of the major events of a 15-day turning point in N.F.L. history.

MARCH 4 With a final decision on Manning’s future with the Colts still a few days away, 27 seconds of grainy, distant cellphone footage of Manning throwing footballs at Duke University goes viral. A confused Dan Snyder of the Redskins offers three future first-round draft picks for the monster from Cloverfield.

MARCH 6, LATE NIGHT Manning and the Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, fly into Indianapolis together for a joint news conference. ”It was a long, emotional flight … now the sun is trying to rise,” Irsay writes on Twitter. Despite the enormous importance of the coming press conference, the sun rises without incident. Just think: everything might have turned out differently if the in-flight movie had been ”The Notebook.”

MARCH 7, NOON Irsay announces the decision to release Peyton Manning in a tearful news conference that resembles a cross between a best man’s toast and a divorcing couple’s heart-to-heart with their children. It is the most heartbreaking daytime television moment since the last episode of ”One Life to Live.”

MARCH 7, AFTERNOON First Manning-to-Broncos rumor begins circulation. The customary mourning period after a romantic breakup in a freshman dormitory is one week. In the N.F.L., it is apparently four hours.

MARCH 7, 5:22 P.M. A Miami NBC affiliate reports that Manning landed at Opa-Locka Executive Airport and left in a van. Little do the Dolphins realize that they will be upstaged in the days to come, not just by several other teams, but by several other vans.

MARCH 8, MORNING ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Manning prefers A.F.C. teams to N.F.C. teams. The Redskins and the Cardinals refuse to take the polite hint.

MARCH 9, 7:01 A.M. As reported by Mike Sando of ESPN, a plane frequently used by Broncos executives arrives in Miami from Stillwater, Okla., spends precisely 72 minutes on the ground, then returns to Stillwater, where John Elway and others are watching prospects work out. Not coincidently, Manning routinely listens to the 72-minute Bob Dylan classic ”Blonde on Blonde” in its entirety before flying across country.

MARCH 9, EVENING A blockbuster trade with the Rams for the draft pick that will be Robert Griffin III takes the Redskins out of the Manning sweepstakes. And the 2013 draft. And the 2014 draft. And contention for the foreseeable future.

MARCH 9, LATER THAT EVENING The Jets give up on Manning and extend Mark Sanchez’s contract, making the Redskins’ decision to mortgage their future for one untested player the wisest decision of the night.

MARCH 10, MORNING Tim Tebow, raising money for wounded veterans in Tampa, Fla., cancels a news conference so his charitable efforts are not upstaged by Manning-to-Broncos questions. This is the lone example of perspective and restraint in this entire timeline.

MARCH 11, EVENING Manning completes a six-and-a-half-hour visit with the Cardinals. Despite the relative brevity of the meeting and the fact that Manning never takes a real snap, he leaves Arizona as the fourth-most successful quarterback in franchise history.

MARCH 12, EVENING The Dolphins stop giving themselves pep talks in the men’s room mirror and finally make their move. Manning spends six hours meeting with Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin and his staff. Despite owning a home in Miami and spending much of the past week there, Manning meets with Philbin in Indianapolis. As positive indicators go, this is as encouraging as a weekday date at a coffee shop at noontime, yet the Dolphins press on.

MARCH 14 The Titans emerge as major players in the Manning derby with an all-day conference in Tennessee. The team’s owner, Bud Adams, offers a ”lifetime” contract. A ”cryogenic” extension turns out to violate the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

MARCH 15, AFTERNOON The Tennessee Legislature approves a resolution urging Manning to come back to the state where he was a collegiate star. An amendment to the resolution tells Steve Spurrier that he can stay the heck out.

MARCH 16, 1:30 P.M. John Elway and John Fox leave the Raleigh-Durham Airport in a white van and drive to Duke University for private workouts with Manning. News helicopters follow the van, and the entire journey is broadcast live on N.F.L. Network. Parallels to the O. J. Simpson chase are too obvious to point out. Elway and Fox keep the van after the journey, realizing that if they alienate Tebow while failing to sign Manning, they may have to start their own drywall business.

MARCH 16, 4 P.M. The Cardinals give up on Manning by paying their incumbent quarterback Kevin Kolb a $7 million roster bonus. The Redskins trade keeps looking better and better.

MARCH 17, MORNING Steve Young reveals on SportsCenter that Manning held a secret midweek workout with 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh. Alex Smith, the free-agent quarterback who led San Francisco to the N.F.C. championship game last season, is so angered and disillusioned by his team’s courtship of Manning that he does the unthinkable: he schedules a visit with the Dolphins.

MARCH 18, AFTERNOON Seahawks sign quarterback Matt Flynn, ending speculation that Seattle might do something interesting.

MARCH 19, NOON Numerous reports confirm that Manning plans to sign with the Broncos. Exactly 11 seconds elapse before football news media begin speculating where Tebow will land. The Dolphins are the front-runners, but give them time.

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.

PHOTOS: From left, the Colts’ Jim Irsay, who let Manning go; the Titans’ Bud Adams, who offered a ”lifetime” contract; Robert Griffin III, who is likely to be drafted by the Redskins; Mark Sanchez, who is staying with the Jets; and 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh, who held a workout with Manning. (PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRENT SMITH/REUTERS; WADE PAYNE/ASSOCIATED PRESS; DAVE MARTIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS; BARTON SILVERMAN/THE NEW YORK TIMES; LEON HALIP/GETTY IMAGES)