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Bears GM Phil Emery will be at home at NFL Combine

Phil Emery has background college scouting has indicated he will continue closely monitor collegiate players. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Phil Emery has a background in college scouting and has indicated he will continue to closely monitor collegiate players. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 24, 2012 9:06AM

INDIANAPOLIS — Since ­being named Bears general manager in late January, Phil Emery has worked diligently to get a handle on his responsibilities, many of them new.

Emery will ramp up his communication with agents, oversee the Bears’ foray into free agency and help shape many football and non-football related aspects of the organization.

This week, though, Emery is in his element.

The NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium is the ultimate showcase for the 2012 draft class. College players audition for clubs in interviews and a battery of physical and mental tests.

A college scouting director in eight of his last nine seasons, Emery’s role will be vastly heightened this week. While most NFL general managers come from the pro side of scouting, Thomas Dimitroff of the Atlanta Falcons said the tide might be changing.

“It’s very beneficial coming in as a college director into the GM role because you know the draft, inside and out, by the time you get the job,” Dimitroff said. “And you’re not coming in as a pro director, where you’re trying to learn the draft on the fly. That’s very, very important.”

Dimitroff should know because he transitioned from college scouting director of the New England Patriots into his role as Falcons general manager in 2008. Since then, he has been named Executive of the Year by the Sporting News twice.

Dimitroff said his understanding of the draft helped accelerate the transition for himself and his handpicked head coach, Mike Smith.

Not that the Falcons were passive in free agency. They signed Michael Turner, LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup, to a lucrative contract that included $15 million in guarantees. Since then, Turner has been selected for two Pro Bowls.

The Falcons’ focus was on the draft, something the climate in the NFL demands.

“It’s important to understand how beneficial the draft can be, from the standpoint of the cap and from the standpoint of having young talent that you can develop and mold into the pros you want them to be,” Dimitroff. “With that said, you can’t be strictly building through the draft.

“But you have to be particular about when you make a move in free agency. You have to mix both disciplines.”

Over time, Emery’s style and ­approach will become more clear.

The only thing he’s delineated is his desire to continue to be on the road, getting an up-close look at college players during the season. He said he plans to watch college games on Thursdays and Saturdays and be around the Bears on Sunday through Wednesday.

But at his introductory news conference, Emery said he takes “a little bit of a piece of everybody” he has worked with, mentioning Mark Hatley, Rich McKay, Dimitroff, Jerry Angelo and Scott Pioli.

Emery singled out Pioli, who was his superior the last three seasons in Kansas City.

During Super Bowl week, Pioli expressed his fondness for Emery, too.

“He’s a tremendous evaluator. He’s a class guy. He’s a good motivator and a tremendous teacher, and he’s really good at his craft,” Pioli said. “He’s smart, but if there’s something he doesn’t know, he’s going to work it. He’s a great choice. I’m going to miss him dearly.”

Pioli naturally said he believed that Emery would “be successful.” But he highlighted one of Emery’s strengths.

He’s one of those guys, who is a good teammate, all across the board,” Pioli said. “He’ll be ­successful.”

But as he prepares for his rookie year as a GM, Emery doesn’t have to worry about one huge headache Dimitroff had to endure: finding a quarterback.

That year, with the third overall pick, the Falcons selected Matt Ryan. In Chicago, Emery has Jay Cutler.

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