by Jack Bechta
February 22, 02011
This year’s NFL Combine will be about my 20th visit to Indianapolis for the annual event. But this year will be special because of the labor tension that exists on the doorstep of the expiring CBA. Behind the curtain of the actual testing for the 2011 draft class, talks and emotions will be running at a more intense level than usual.
Although the business of the NFL will be a big media focal point this week, it’s still about the rookies. However, the one test you won’t see on TV is usually the most important and is the #1 reason the NFL Combine even exists.
The hardest test for the draftees is not the 40 yard run, the skill test or multiple interviews. It’s passing the NFL teams’ physical. If a player gets red-flagged here it means he could be taken off the draft board. The rub here is that when this happens to players, neither he nor his agent knows he’s been rejected until after the draft. Most teams keep their medical reports so secret they won’t even share it with their own scouting staff or the coaches.
What is even more interesting about the medical evaluation process is how and why one team will fail a player while another will not. Come April, several draftees will get an unfortunate surprise on draft day by not having their name called.
Coaches and Scouts feeling insecure
With the real potential of a lockout looming right around the corner, many coaches and scouts are starting to get really nervous about their future. Rumors are flying that owners will start firing guys if the lockout becomes a reality. The truth is that many coaches already have lockout language which can trigger a reduction in salary. Regardless, coaches and scouts may be more focused on their future than the 2011 draft class.
Additionally, assistant coaches specifically feel like they have been gradually stripped of their benefits over the last few years. They’re slowly losing ground and going backwards in their overall compensation packages. They will never speak publicly about it in fear of losing their jobs, but there will be much intell exchanged in Indy to see how each owner is treating them as a whole.
The agent agenda
For agents, it will have to be business as usual for the most part. We will still go through the routine of supporting our rookies at the Combine and making sure they are prepared and have everything they need. We will also be working hard to promote our potential free agents in case a labor agreement is reached earlier than expected.
Agents are required to attend a yearly union meeting to keep their certification active. This meeting will take place on Friday prior to the Combine skill testing. Many are calling this the most important agent meeting in the history of the union. Many issues will be discussed and even debated with union leaders. However, more intimate conversations will be held behind closed doors with a smaller group of more powerful agents.
Agents will have to make sure that both their vets and their rookies are informed about any developments and/or strategies that come out of these meetings with the union leaders. In addition, agents’ incomes will also be affected if there is a lockout and or a rookie wage scale, so emotions may be running a lot higher than usual.
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