The NFL’s annual meat market starts this week in Indianapolis with The NFL Combine where hopeful rookies do a lot of things they will never do again if they do make it to the league.
Run in a straight line with no one in front of them ... wearing no pads. Jumping as high as possible ... wearing no pads. Running around cones ... wearing no pads. Lifting a lot of weights ... wearing no pads. Throw footballs with no one coming at them ... wearing no pads.
This “event” runs Feb. 17 to 23 in downtown Indianapolis.
Despite the many advances the NFL has made in recent years, and the millions of dollars teams spend to find the next Pro Bowler, the Combine remains rooted in many activities that simply do not apply towards an actual football game. There is a reason why Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round. Or why Tony Romo was not drafted at all.
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Some coaches, notably Bill Belichick of the Patriots, are known to loathe the Combine because little of what this “event” does reflects a player’s talents or abilities. Most of the real scouting comes from watching game film, talking to a guy’s college coaches, and the actual interviews between the teams and the players.
The Combine remains because preparing for the draft has become an industry; players routinely spend hours a day with trainers doing nothing but training for the drills at the combine. Personal trainers, and personal training facilities, charge good money in exchange to prepare their clients for their time on the stage in Indianapolis.
There is a potential other negative side effect to the Combine - the player has spent more time to prepare for this than a game.
Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick is of the belief that training for the Combine could potentially hurt a rookie in his attempt to adapt to the NFL game, which is already hard enough.
“You are working on leaning down. You are working on straight line speed. You are working on endurance in lifting,” Frederick told me during the season. “In football, generally you strength train in lifting. Short yardage bursts, short yardage change of direction and quickness. Those types of things.”
The problem, for rookies, is that you have to train for the combine and specifically for a series of activities that will be irrelevant as soon as they are completed.
“I wouldn’t tell (potential) rookies to do anything different,” Frederick said. “They pay people a lot of money to make those decisions for them, and to help guide them through process. The Combine has become such a big deal that you have to train for the Combine. I think that’s a slippery slope to decide which one you are going to train for.”
The NFL, which televises this thing on the NFL Network, would be wise to just change and modernize the Combine and implement some events and skill competitions that actually do reflect a player’s football abilities rather than his athleticism. They can start by doing what football players do - wear pads.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760