Well, I leave Wednesday for Indianapolis. It’s National Invitational Camp (the official name of the combine) week. Combine Week is the second-best week of the year to someone like me after the Senior Bowl. If you’re a person who’ll be in Indy this week trying to make connections, let’s talk a bit about how it differs from Mobile.
People think of the combine as the biggest week in football, at least from an NFL standpoint. The thing is, there are two ‘parties’ for the NFL, and they are the Senior Bowl and the combine. You’re pretty much going to get everyone from the NFL at both of these events, with two major differences.
One, at the Senior Bowl, two teams are still alive, so their staffs are a little abbreviated. You won’t see any of the coaches from those teams, and you might not see as many scouts or the GM.
Two, I always describe the Senior Bowl as a football party where everyone is invited, and to some degree that’s true. It’s far more ‘open’ and if you’re at least peripherally associated with the game, it’s relatively easy to get credentialed. It’s also true that the people of Mobile are super-friendly but also very welcoming and hospitable to football folks, because the Senior Bowl is the No. 1 event on their social calendar (though they take Mardi Gras pretty seriously there, as well). Each night, there’s a gala event sponsored by some major part of the football industry, and it’s by invitation only. People come out in their suits and evening dresses and it’s clearly a big deal.
On the other hand, at the combine, if you don’t have a badge around your neck, access is very limited. You won’t get any farther than the front door of the players hotel if you don’t have an NFL credential. You won’t get past the entrance to Lucas Oil Stadium if you don’t have a media badge. You won’t get into the NFLPA seminar without signing in and showing that you’re an agent.
Probably the biggest difference between the two is that in Mobile, the big event of the week is relatively open. Even if you don’t have a badge, you can come in and watch practices. And if you want to hobnob with NFL types but don’t have any real connections, you can just go to the team hotel, the Renaissance, and you’re good to go. At the combine, you’re not getting into the stadium to check out the workouts unless you work for the NFL or have otherwise obtained a badge, and they’re not so easy to acquire. Meanwhile, because the city is a bigger and more spread out, there’s not one hotel where everyone hangs out. I guess the closest thing to the Renaissance in Indy is the Omni; it’s become the place where all the vendors hoping to attract NFL business rent space and set up suites.
I’ll try to check in frequently from Indy this week, but don’t hold me to it. It’s going to be busy, but also fun. As always, I’ll let you know on Twitter whenever I’ve got something new.