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Interviews will affect stock

Are nearly as important as combine drills

– Barkevious Mingo is ready for questions he will face this weekend in Indianapolis.

Seemingly every NFL team at the annual scouting combine will ask about his relationship with former college teammate Tyrann Mathieu and whether he ever hung out with the troubled cornerback.

The answers could make as much difference in Mingo living up to his projection as a first-round draft pick as his time in the 40-yard dash. So the LSU star has left nothing to chance, carving out time to prepare for the 15-minute interviews.

“It’s one thing that all the guys that came out from LSU are going to face,” Mingo said. “We know what kind of guy he was and we’re always going to be there for him.”

Interview training has become an essential component for draft hopefuls. Most, if not all, of the 333 players expected to arrive in Indianapolis for the combine have been instructed in how to answer properly.

Running back Marcus Lattimore is trying to prove he can return from a gruesome knee injury. Mathieu, a cornerback, and Da’Rick Rogers, a receiver, both were booted off the teams they intended to play for last fall after failing drug tests. Linebacker Alec Ogletree will have to answer for a series of problems that included a suspension for violating team rules, and linebacker Manti Te’o will likely contend with the girlfriend hoax.

Lee Gordon, a former television anchor, runs a training program for Athletes Performance, whose client list includes Mingo and Lattimore. His advice: Be appealing, believable and accentuate the positive.

“We tell them up front that coaching you on this is similar to tackling techniques and the things you do on the field, but you have to be yourself,” Gordon said. “You can’t be fake or people will see right through it.”

All this coaching has made things more difficult for the teams to sort out.

Over the years, Bill Polian, the architect of four Super Bowl teams in Buffalo and two in Indianapolis, grew so wary of these “coached” answers that he changed the way the Colts did business. Instead of asking the questions himself or having other front office personnel or coaches conduct interviews, Polian used a psychologist who could immediately tell the difference between honest answers and scripted ones. If the person believed the answers had been programmed, the order of the questions changed.

Even today, Polian is skeptical that teams will get the answers needed.

“I wouldn’t put any stock into the answers they give you. You know it’s spin,” he said.

This year, the league will introduce a new measuring tool – the NFL Player Assessment Test, which has been billed as a complement to the Wonderlic intelligence test. Polian described it as more of a personality test than a psychological exam.

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