There seems to be a lot of confusion about what people in the football business do in Indianapolis (besides freeze) during combine week. Let’s try to clear that up today with a very brief overview.
If you’re in Indy for the combine, you’re in one of four groups: player, media, NFL, agent or vendor. There are others who show up to be part of the mix, but that’s pretty much it.
Players, obviously, are there to compete and put up numbers. They are there for four days. The last day is always the day they go to Lucas Oil Stadium and run, jump, etc. The first day is the travel day when they fill out all the forms, make sure they’re fitted right, etc. Somewhere in those four days, they also go to the hospital and get all the medical stuff taken care of. They also are interviewed extensively by NFL teams, either as part of the scheduled session the combine sets out or as part of an individual session an interested team schedules.
Most players also are run through the NFL media room, where there are hundreds of credentialed writers and broadcasters there to ask questions, get video, do interviews, etc. The bigger players are sent to a podium, where they get the full treatment in front of a panel of cameras. The lesser players wind up getting placed at tables where they are interviewed one-on-one, mostly by local writers and media.
If you’re NFL media, you’re pretty much stuck in that room in Lucas Oil Stadium for three days, because they bring the players to you. What most writers do is get tons of quotes from players that they have ‘in the can’ as they do features later throughout the spring.
For agents, the schedule varies. The biggest event of the week is the NFLPA seminar, which is always held on the Friday of the combine. All contract advisors have to attend at least one meeting per year, and this is the one that most attend; the other two are in Las Vegas the weekend before the draft and in Baltimore in mid-May. Most of the agents at the seminar don’t have clients at the combine, so they arrive Thursday night, go to the seminar Friday, then race to the airport that afternoon.
Seasoned agents do things a little differently. There is a lot of meeting and schmoozing with league officials, especially for those agents who have players awaiting free agency in a few weeks. The more connected agents also sit down with scouts and NFL executives to bang the drum for their clients. Usually, agents will hang around at least until their client works out, though there’s really not a lot they can do for them. At the combine, it’s all about what the player does in Lucas Oil Stadium.
If you’re NFL — scout, executive, coach, other league official — your routine is pretty simple. You go to Lucas Oil Stadium early in the morning, watch players participate in drills all day, meet with your team, then hit the nightlife (or go to bed). Workouts start Friday and continue through Monday. These days, fans can pretty much see everything the scouts are seeing because it’s all broadcast, but I can tell you there’s one person who won’t be watching: me. I used to sneak into the combine in the early 2000s, and to me, if you want to REALLY get bored, watch men run 40 yards, time after time, all day. It was complete drudgery. I’d rather have nails driven through my eyelids.
If you’re a vendor, you’re pretty much in one of two places, either the Omni Hotel or the Indiana Convention Center (ICC). The ICC is where we’ll be holding our seminar Thursday evening, and we’ll be in amongst several people trying to pitch weight training, mental skills metrics, and other services to NFL types. In the old days, vendors were practically stacked on top of each other because the RCA Dome was connected to the ICC, meaning all scouts had to parade down the hallways to get out of the building. These days, there’s not the same traffic, but you still get some vendors who don’t want to pay Omni prices that use the ICC.
The Omni is kind of the ‘hangout’ for people when they’re between drills or looking to hook up with friends in the business. It has a big lobby with plenty of suites, and Nike always sets up there, as well as several other more non-descript services. But the big win with the Omni is that you’re in the middle of the action. I like to hang out at the Omni on Saturday in the room behind the lobby. The wi-fi is free, and everyone comes through there. It’s the best place to catch up with all my clients and friends.