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Lunch Break, 3/23: NFL Veteran Combine Notes

More than 100 players with past NFL experience of varying degrees participated in the first ever NFL Veteran Combine on Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals practice facility.

Representatives from all 32 teams attended the event to take a look at the prospective players, and NFL.com's *Around the NFL *estimated the total number of scouts was 100. The free agents had the same dream of playing the sport at the highest level but different types of experiences during their quests.

Barry Wilner of the *Associated Press *quoted former Vikings six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk who is now the NFL's director of football development on the event:

"This group either has outdated or brief or short resumes in the NFL. This is an opportunity to bring a large pool of players together for the clubs to evaluate at once. They are fighting for their football lives and will do whatever they can to get into a camp."

Wilner focused on the experiences of former Army quarterback Trent Steelman, who is trying to find an opportunity as a receiver after a two-year military commitment, and running backs Michael Bush and Felix Jones, who are trying to prove their gas tanks haven't run out.

On Steelman:

Although he dropped one pass during the combine, he looked natural on the other end of throws. Considering he hadn't played in anything more competitive than flag football while stationed in Savannah, Georgia, Steelman looked like he belonged on this hot, sunny day.

"I wouldn't trade my time in the Army for anything else," said Steelman, who attended a mini-camp with the Ravens in 2013. "It taught me to interact with teammates, with the different type of cultures and it's that way in sports, with the different cultures and sportsmen. I put that to work when I am with these guys, too."

On Bush:

A 30-year-old running back and six-year vet who last played in the league with Chicago in 2013, prepped hard for the combine. He said he practiced all kinds of drills, only to find few of them were being used Sunday.

Still, he seemed relieved to learn the three-cone drill and some others were dropped.

But when told he ran a slow 4.91 in the 40, Bush was almost despondent.

"There goes my career," the usually jovial Bush said, a frown rapidly crossing his face. "It hurts."

On Jones:

The Cowboys' first-rounder in 2008 (22nd overall) spent five seasons in Dallas, leading the NFL with a 5.9-yard rushing average in his second season. But he rarely was the team's first consideration as a rusher. After spending 2013 with Pittsburgh, Jones was out of football last year.

The 27-year-old Jones showed some burst at the combine, and hoped it was noticed.

"Every veteran wants another opportunity to showcase what he can do," he said. "I can bring speed, quickness and excitement. I'm a special teams player, I can catch the ball out of the backfield, I can even play in the slot if they want me to do it. Whatever it takes."

Marc Sessler and Conor Orr of *Around the NFL *also noted that 30-year-old Brady Quinn is hoping for a renaissance similar to one realized by Josh McCown and Tyler Wilson appeared to have the strongest throwing arm.

Sessler and Orr reported that Michael Sam drew a substantial crowd of reporters. Sam told media he is "very confident that I will be playing football this year, somewhere." Sam was drafted in the seventh round in 2014 by St. Louis, becoming the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL. The former Missouri defensive end was waived during the Rams final roster reductions and joined the practice squad of the Cowboys last September. He was released in October.

Monday's Pro Days: Georgia Southern, Iowa, North Carolina State, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio

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