INDIANAPOLIS – This time a year ago, Ryan Grigson was five weeks into his role as Colts general manager.
He had a two-week jump on Chuck Pagano, the club's new head coach. The pair had pieced together a coaching staff and approached the combine with a chance to reshape the future.
Indianapolis held the top pick in the draft, and it had a veteran-heavy roster that in due time would be disassembled in part in favor of a new beginning.
Grigson and Pagano saw the departures of household names in Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett and Dallas Clark.
A new cast of characters that included Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, T. Y. Hilton, Vick Ballard and LaVon Brazill joined the club in the draft, while Grigson dutifully trolled free agency and trade routes to build a team that posted a nine-game jump from 2011.
Coming off an 11-5 season that included a playoff berth, Grigson sees a different atmosphere from 52 weeks ago. He is not on everyone's speed dial.
"I was being inundated with inquiries about trading that pick and since we were picking at the top of each round it really put a lot of potential names in front of us that might get pushed down and fall out of every round right into our lap. That was exciting," said Grigson.
Today, Grigson will address a portion of the media assembled for the Combine. Position groups of players will start filtering into the media workroom as well. Drills for the 333 players will start on Friday, and they conclude on Tuesday.
Grigson was a personnel junkie dating back to when he was at Purdue. After being drafted by Cincinnati in 1995, he spent some brief time there, in Detroit and with Toronto of the CFL before embarking on a personnel career that now is in its 15th season.
The top decision-maker still finds the combine an important process.
"I guess timing the 40's is about the only thing that really every gets me excited," said Grigson. "Some guys you really liked may not run as well as expected or some may really fly that you didn't think were fast from the film so you make note of those things because it can affect them come draft day.
"Also, some of the drills can generate some excitement when players really jump out with their athletic movement and mannerisms. Usually the elite guys look a tad different from the rest."
Grigson departs from some of his colleagues in believing the interview process has great value in vetting players. He thinks the sessions are great ways to strip aside potential pretense and determine if someone is viable for the club's culture.
Not every draft eligible player has a perfect past. Grigson uses the combine along with information gleaned throughout the year by his staff, as well as other material that becomes available close to the April draft.
For now, a player might make a different impression in an interview with the club.
"It obviously depends on how egregious a past offense has been and then how open, honest and contrite that player is about the mistake or mistakes he's made and how he's gone about correcting it," said Grigson. "It is usually pretty clear in a short amount of time the guys that have matured and grown from their past mistakes because they usually have an air of confidence about them when talking about it. We have some smart football men in our room and they've all been around the block. We usually know who the conmen are in short order during this process.
"We want guys to let us in to who and what they are. If they have made mistakes we want them to act like men and own up to it and discuss it because we clearly believe in second chances around here."
By this time, very firm impressions of draft hopefuls are in place. The body of work of an athlete typically trumps all. This is just another step in the process that leads to draft day, and the importance of that is quite clear.
"The draft is how you build," said Grigson. "It is the lifeblood of a team, and it's chance to achieve sustained success. Teams that historically draft well are the teams you see with 10 or more wins every year and most consistently playing in the post-season, period."