By Chris Terlop
In today’s culture football coverage is 365 days a year and the NFL combine is one of those events that has gained popularity and has attracted almost a cult-like following. Everybody wants to rave about the 4.3 forty yard dashes and record-breaking bench presses, but that is not the best use of the combine any more.
At this point, the most valuable part of the NFL combine is the player interviews. Athletes go to trainers with goals of improving their straight line 40, their vertical, and their bench press. However, the physical tests do not change; a single question can be viewed differently by every person asking it.
Coaches and GM’s need to know if the engine matches the body of these multimillion dollar investments. With the new policies that police NFL players, one cannot take too many chances on players with a history of getting in trouble or risk suspension. Players need to be able to mentally handle the pressures of being a professional athlete.
Jamarcus Russell is a perfect example. Did he have great physical tools? Yes. Was his head straight? No. The guy relied on his talent to get him by, did not have the work ethic to make it once the playing field was leveled. Russell blew up to 300 pounds and dropped out of the NFL. He was much more than a 32 million dollar mistake, he set a whole franchise back years.
A review of a player’s history, then asking questions about their past, and judging their responses can reveal quite a bit about a player’s makeup. They will be judged from their body language, tone, and the actual answer. Each team is looking for certain red flags in answers and one misstep could get a player knocked of the big board more so than a physical short-coming.
It is no longer enought to be able to be physically gifted. Anything and everything a player does and says is under a microscope by th public and by the league. A player is more likely to be suspended for off-field incidents or fined for his comments now than ever before. A lot of players drafted in the first round are expected to be the face of the franchise, and a franchise does not want to have to worry about a tweet coming back to put bad light on the whole organization.
If a guy can run, you can see that from seeing him play. If a guy can pressure the quarterback, you can see that on the tape over and over again. Will a guy have what it takes mentally to make it in the high pressure NFL? Only one-on-one interactions can help figure that out. Players will wow fans with their athletic ability, but the most crucial part of the combine will be going on behind the scenes.
You can hear Chris on Sportsline Monday through Friday and Saturdays at 8 am. Follow him, @Terlop19.