The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was one of the last unaffected sporting events before the COVID-19 pandemic. After nearly a year, it’s getting more and more likely the 2021 version won’t be so lucky and the NFL is looking at alternatives to still give teams access to evaluating prospective players as well as keeping things as safe as possible in a COVID world.
According to SI’s Albert Breer, the NFL held a call on Friday and after consulting with medical officials, the league accepted that the idea to have this year’s Combine conducted in the same way as previous years was “dead.” And while moving the Combine to April isn’t ideal, since it would likely mean delaying the NFL Draft, the NFL revealed some ideas to personnel which will still have the Combine in some form. It’s important to note that none of these ideas are official yet but it seems to be the direction the NFL is going when they eventually announce whatever changes they come up with.
One idea is to have “regionalized medical checks” where teams can send “one or two people (either doctors or trainers)” to a hospital in a state where most players are working out (Florida, California, Arizona, and Texas have 85 percent of prospects working out). Those team personnel, who will have already been vaccinated for COVID-19, will medically evaluate those prospects there instead of having those prospects travel from all areas of the country into the same spot. Other parts of the medical evaluation can be done online but things like lab and x-rays will need to be done in person.
Another idea has been to conduct interviews with prospects over Zoom which seems obvious. NFL teams have adjusted to doing that for team meetings the entire season, surely people can ask strange and sometimes inappropriate questions over Zoom instead of in person. After that, on-field evaluation will be treated more like a pro day with “team or league officials conducting drills and testing on campus.”
This year’s Combine might be very different and it might not be ideal for those participating given their pro futures might depend on performing well but maybe this can be an opportunity for a prospect to shine. To be able to adjust to different conditions on the fly and be able to perform is a skill a pro football player should have and maybe someone can raise their stock if they’re able to seamlessly adjust to any changes coming toward them.