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Leak gets chance to impress NFL teams

 Chris Leak has been all the rage of late after leading Florida to the national championship this month.

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published January 23, 2007


MOBILE, Ala. - Chris Leak has been all the rage of late after leading Florida to the national championship this month.

But here, the Most Valuable Player in the BCS title game is just another prospect trying to get a look.

College accolades mean nothing at the Senior Bowl, as representatives of every NFL team have arrived to scout talent during practices for Saturday's all-star game. Leak benefited from a stroke of luck just to get here. He wasn't invited until late in the process when game organizers learned Notre Dame standout Brady Quinn would not participate because of a minor injury.

"As a player, the main thing you want to prove is that you can make your team successful on the field," said Leak, who is not projected as a top-flight NFL prospect. "As a quarterback, being able to move the ball downfield and make your reads, get guys in position to make plays and put points on the board, that's big. All that plays into it."

The opportunity really is priceless. Take, for example, Leak's pre-dinner meeting with Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who is coaching the North team (Leak will play for the South). Leak gets the chance to perform in front of a captive audience of decision-makers and possibly show something they have not seen from him.

"I'm just really enjoying being around all these coaches and learning as much as I can," Leak said.

FLIPPING OUT: Gruden often talks about his team's many brushes with bad luck, but he is hoping his fortunes change in next month's coin toss to determine whether the Bucs will pick third or fourth in the first round of the draft.

Because the Bucs finished with an identical record and strength of schedule as Cleveland, the coin toss will break the tie.

"Watching our (film) and some of the things that have happened, we're ready for some breaks," Gruden said.

Gruden feels the coin toss is an antiquated method of determining something that could be significant on draft day.

"They have all these computerized statistics, you would think they could figure that out a little bit better," he said. "For anything to come down to a coin flip, that's pretty prehistoric if you ask me."

FULLY STAFFED?: The Bucs' new coaching staff had its first work day together Monday, drilling the North team's players during a cold, rainy practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Gruden hopes the team, which has had to hire four assistant coaches in the past two weeks, won't have to replace anyone else. But. ...

"You never know," Gruden said. "Given the fact that many of these jobs are just being filled - there's obviously a new job in Dallas - we've had (teams) call about members of our staff. We hope, for the most part, to have our staff in place. We're here in Mobile to work together."

Quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett is believed to be the only coach who does not have a contract for the 2007 season. He is working with the North team's three quarterbacks and hasn't indicated what his status is going forward. But Hackett is believed to have interest in becoming an offensive coordinator again.

DAVIS ADDED: Florida State receiver Chris Davis, a former St. Petersburg Catholic standout, has been added to the South roster. Davis, who led the Seminoles in receptions (49) and receiving yards (684) and had 936 all-purpose yards, joins Seminole teammates Lorenzo Booker and Buster Davis.

Times staff writer Brian Landman contributed to this report.