- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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Mark Herzlich's itinerary is set for the next step in his progression from Boston College linebacker to NFL hopeful. He departs for the Indianapolis-based NFL combine on Friday and is scheduled to go through a four-day job interview -- filled with poking and prodding -- that is unlike most others.
It will start with a hospital visit and medical evaluations. He'll meet with various NFL teams. There will be media interviews and then, on the final day, the physical testing.
That's what Herzlich and the other 328 invited prospects have been preparing for in recent weeks. Herzlich has been training in Bradenton, Fla., with 20 others -- a group including BC offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo -- and he is expecting a "mental drain."
"It's a business right now, so you're going to do your job," he said Tuesday after his morning workout. "I want to leave there with no regrets that I could have left something on the table. I don't expect that to happen. I feel confident."
Herzlich figures to be scrutinized closely by NFL teams from a medical and performance standpoint. He is currently rated as a late fifth-round draft choice by ESPN's Scouts Inc, although that could change with a strong showing at the combine, specifically with a good time in the 40-yard dash.
Herzlich, who is represented by agent Tom Condon, hasn't been paying attention to where he's ranked by analysts.
"I have no idea. I haven't turned on a TV or looked at a website since I've been here [training in Florida]," he said. "I can't really control it at all. All I can control is what I do at the combine and my Pro Day, so I don't really worry about it. Wherever I go is wherever I go."
To prepare for the combine, Herzlich has been in Bradenton, where the wake-up call comes at 6:15. The mornings have consisted of speed and agility work, as well as position-specific drills with coaches. The afternoons include weightlifting, mental conditioning and vision training. It's a full day, with the prospects finishing with dinner at 6 p.m.
It's all designed so Herzlich will be at his best at the combine, which he had heard plenty about from former BC teammates B.J. Raji and Mike McLaughlin.
"I think it's important," Herzlich said of the combine. "I think it does a lot to help if you do really well. At the same time, I think a lot of coaches understand it's not football, so if you're a good football player, you should be fine."
Physical tests aside, Herzlich views himself as a versatile player who fits in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses at various spots. He is considered to have NFL-type size at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, and strong intangibles that include his ability to manage a game and leadership. If there is one area that scouts figure to watch closest after his performance in January's Senior Bowl, it will be how well Herzlich runs.
On Monday, Herzlich said he had a standard doctor's appointment in Tampa to confirm what he already knew since returning in 2010 after being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma (a form of cancer that can attack bones) and having a rod inserted in his left leg (femur).
"My health is fine, just like anybody else's," he said. "I got all green lights and don't have any worries."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
Mark Herzlich is preparing for his next step from Boston College linebacker to NFL hopeful.