The NFL Combine change that left prospects fuming

Almost every NFL event has become an extravagant spectacle. This year’s Super Bowl halftime show was more talked about than the blockbuster game itself, the 2020 NFL Draft plans to be an ostentatious, all-out Vegas ordeal and the 2020 NFL Combine is no exception.

Among the many changes to this year’s event were 16 new drills, including end zone fade routes for pass catchers and box drills and gauntlet drills for defensive backs, but perhaps the most noteworthy change for fans was shifting most drills to a more viewer-friendly slot in prime time.

The transition caters to fans’ seemingly insatiable appetites for more football, a germane topic in light of the new collective bargaining agreement which could add a 17th game to the regular season.

Making the event more accessible increases total engagement and viewership.

Utah's Javelin Guidry running the 40-yard dash.
Utah’s Javelin Guidry running the 40-yard dash.Getty Images

The league’s viewer-first mentality failed to account for the safety of players, who assume additional risk with no monetary upside. A number of positional groups were forced to wait for hours after arriving to begin their workouts which could make athletes more prone to injury because it runs contrary to their normal training schedules. Quarterback Malcolm Perry from Navy was forced to wait for six hours at Lucas Oil Stadium before beginning his workout which lasted until almost midnight, and another linebacker reported a four-hour wait time for his group after arriving.

Players and agents also excoriated the league for subjecting the NFL hopefuls to suboptimal conditions.

“Not only do they sit around all day, but the food for the players was poor, and it was a poorly run week,” a source told Pro Football Network. “Top agencies are talking about not having their players work out [at the combine] next year.”

The shift could ultimately prove to be short-sighted. While an uptick in immediate exposure undoubtedly yielded more revenue for the league this year, fan engagement could decline if more players opt out of participating in years to come.

“If (the NFL) is going to make guys stand around and wait for hours to workout, ours will bow out next year,” an NFL agent told Bleacher Report. “We’re not risking hamstrings, ACLs and Achilles’ for TV money we don’t see a part of.”

Another emerging trend among top athletes like Burrow and Chase Young is to instead, showcase their skills at their schools’ pro days, which they would have more control over in terms of timing and format. Those events will not be televised.

“I don’t want to waste time trying to be a combine athlete,” Young told reporters at the combine on Thursday. “When I step on the field, I need to know that I put my best foot forward as far as being the best player I can be.”

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