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NFL Combine notebook: RB Graham says Pitt experience made him stronger

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By Alan Robinson
Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, 8:06 p.m.

• Three head coaches, three systems. Running back Ray Graham went through a lot at Pitt during the Dave Wannstedt, Todd Graham and Paul Chryst regimes. Graham thinks it might offer an edge going to the NFL, where coaching changes are common and players must adjust in a hurry. “I thought it was kind of advantage. We've been through a lot and we've seen a lot. It definitely was something that made us stronger because so many people came through, When the Wisconsin job came open (and Chryst was rumored to be a candidate), we were already thinking that. Nobody was going to pout or anything. If he does it, he does it. He came in and was very respectful to us, and we would have respected any decision he made.”

• Read option or read defenses. To Geno Smith, it makes no difference. While the West Virginia quarterback is being called a pure pocket passer — no RGIII here — he said he believes he can handle any offensive responsibilities an NFL team throws at him. If that means running the ball, that's fine. “I played in three different systems in college,” he said. “I've played in a read-option system. I had to adjust because coming out of high school, I had no say in that system. So I had to adjust to it.”

• Chuck Pagano's hair is back, even his goatee. So is his sense of humor. The Colts coach said that doctors placed only one restriction on him after he returned to the job following treatment for leukemia: They told him to do fewer media interviews. However, Pagano isn't ready to say he is fully back. “I don't know if I'll ever be the same,” he said. “I feel pretty normal now as far as going through the stuff that a football coach goes through.” Including, yes, media interviews.

• The NFL reportedly is weighing a shift in its calendar that would result in the combine being held in March, the start of free agency being pushed back to April and the draft being shifted to May. The idea is to put more events into months where the NFL ­— which has the shortest season of any of the major pro sports leagues — often generates little news other than its teams' offseason workouts. Broncos executive John Elway doesn't believe the change would be disruptive. “We'll adjust however the league office decides to go,” Elway said.

• Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who is 66, was a bit surprised when cornerback Terrell Thomas recently said, “He has one more (year) in him.” Coughlin is signed for two more seasons. “At some point I'll get the message (to step aside) but it certainly isn't right now,” Coughlin said.

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