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Prospects Change Thinking Toward Position Changes

Vikings Hall of Famer Chris Doleman was invited to the Senior Bowl more than 30 years ago.

Viewed as the top linebacker in the field from the University of Pittsburgh, Doleman was approached by the late Floyd Peters about playing defensive end. Doleman didn't warm on the idea then.

"I'm like, 'Dude, I'm the number one linebacker going into the draft. Why would I switch positions now?' I ended up leaving the Senior Bowl," Doleman recalled in an interview with

Fate, however, can be a funny thing, as Doleman was drafted by Minnesota with the fourth overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft. Peters became Vikings defensive coordinator under Jerry Burns in 1986. The men revisited the topic of a position change the following year.

"We were making a run for the playoffs and he said, 'Would you mind rushing the passer?' Once I got down and put my hand in the dirt, as they say, the rest is history," Doleman said. "It allowed me to rush the passer, I could chase the ball, I could be effective against the run and all those things made me the player I was."

Doleman stacked up 150.5 sacks (fourth-most in NFL history), including 96.5 with the Vikings.

These days, some players who are invited to the annual all-star game are requesting the opportunity to play positions they haven't played before.

Such is the case for Reggie Ragland, who played inside linebacker this season for national champ Alabama. Ragland asked Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage for the opportunity to play some outside linebacker in practices this week and during today's 67th annual game.

"Ultimately, I said, even though you wear number 19, we won't let you play quarterback, but whatever you want to play, we'll let you do it," Savage said.

Savage's first knowledge about Ragland came from a friend who shared tales of an eighth-grader hitting 400-foot home runs and dunking a basketball, but Ragland was limited to special teams at Alabama before this season because of the depth the Crimson Tide has had at the position.

Ragland said it was "rough" to be down on the depth chart but he was able to learn a considerable amount, particularly from C.J. Mosley, who was selected 17th overall by Baltimore in 2014. Ragland said he appreciates the opportunity to show his versatility.

"I just want to show that I can cover and rush the passer. I want to show that I can do multiple things at the next level," Ragland said at this week's introductory press conference. "I know I can play inside, but I want to be able to show that I can play outside too. If a guy goes down, I want to show I can go out there and play it too and not miss a beat."

Savage said other players (and their agents) requested opportunities to show versatility. A rule change last year added to the variety because it gave teams the opportunity to play nickel defense in addition to base.

"From a defensive back standpoint, they all want to play corner and nickel and the safeties all want to cover," Savage said. "I think that's the position that probably shows the most flexibility.

"The offensive linemen want to play tackle, and of course, you've got to have some guards, too," Savage added. "For the most part, these players and their agents are savvy enough to know if you can play tackle, that's more valuable than guard, and if you can rush the passer, that's more valuable than dropping back in coverage as a linebacker. They all tend to call in the week before the game and say, 'Make sure my guy gets a few more rushes.' "

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