Shrine game practices a madhouse

Aside from a few of the Texans' training camp practices that have been open to the public, Methodist Training Center never has been busier than it was this past week during workouts leading up to the Dell East-West Shrine Game.

NFL personnel executives gathered in Houston to evaluate some of the nation's best seniors. There are only a handful of top-tier all-star games leading up to the NFL draft, and the Shrine game is considered to be one of the most talent-rich along with the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

On the sidelines watching the talent last week were general managers such as Matt Millen (Detroit), Marv Levy (Buffalo), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore) and Bill Polian (Indianapolis). Also in attendance were NFL legends such as Pro Football Hall of Famer "Mean" Joe Greene and San Francisco 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary.

General manager Rick Smith led a contingent of Texans scouts and coaches that watched the workouts diligently. Wide receiver Andre Johnson, defensive tackle Travis Johnson, running back Chris Taylor and former Texans defensive tackle Robaire Smith – now a member of the Tennessee Titans – also were seen cruising the sidelines and keeping tabs on players from their respective universities.

The atmosphere was part social and part serious. Some scouts and coaches use the time to catch up with each other on the sidelines, exchange gossip and network for jobs. With the free agent period beginning soon, the practices also gave team officials a chance to discuss eligible players and exchange opinions.

Most of all, though, onlookers spent their time jotting down notes on players' practice habits, techniques and other information that can be difficult to gauge based purely on game film.

In a sense, the college players had to flip their mindsets during the week. Instead of building toward the game, the players had to focus just as hard during practice, where the majority of scouts were present.

Over the coming months until late April, the intensity is only going to grow. Check back on HoustonTexans.com for more coverage as we build up to the 2007 NFL Draft. We'll have in-depth reports from the Senior Bowl and Indianapolis Combine, as well as position-by-position breakdowns so you can stay on top of all the latest news. **

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