Agents of NFL Prospects Announce Intent to Boycott Combine

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NFL football on a field. | Image by by_nicholas

The NFL informed agents and draft prospects last week that the 2022 NFL Combine will operate under strict restrictions due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Agents who represent more than 150 of the top prospects this year announced on February 21 they are prepared to boycott the event unless the NFL relaxes the restrictions.

“Players will be restricted to secure Combine venues during their entire time in Indianapolis,” the NFL’s memo reads. “Players who violate this policy at any time will be disqualified and sent home,” the memo warns.

The NFL said the restrictions are in place to encourage a “bubble” atmosphere that will limit the possibility of wide-spread infection and transmission. Approximately 750 players and staff will travel to Indianapolis for the four-day event.

“We have spoken to several agents to reinforce our long standing opposition to the NFL Scouting Combine and agree and support the decisions by those to not attend,” a letter from the NFL Players Association reads. “The combination of the NFL’s proposed ‘bubble’ and the fact that we still have an antiquated system of every team doctor examining players and having them perform yet again needs serious modification or elimination. While we do not represent these players we have advocated for their rights to fair treatment.”

The restrictions will prevent players from traveling with the usual complement of trainers and coaches, instead limiting each participant to only one, fully-vaccinated medical attendant. The primary concern with the arrangement is that players will not be able to perform at their best with the limitations that would not be in place were the players arriving for a game.

“As an agent, I struggle with the Combine. Players get optimal nutrition & rest for games,” Agent Mike McCartney said on Twitter. “The Combine? Almost the opposite. Improper rest & diet, then tested in a cold, sterile environment. It’s part of why guys test better at Pro Days. And somehow, the NFL has now made it worse.”

The memo specifies “The 2022 NFL Combine features key changes designed to improve the overall player experience and protect the players from a health and safety standpoint.”

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero said on Twitter that the rules may lead some participants to not participate in the bulk of the Combine.

“Unless the NFL and the combine agree to ease those restrictions — allowing players access to their full team of coaches, trainers, ATCs et al. as in past years — most top prospects will now only do medical evaluations next month in Indianapolis,” Pelissero writes.

The Combine was canceled in 2021 citing the pandemic, however individual Pro Days were held. The Combine gives NFL executives and coaches an opportunity to examine players competing in the same events, on the same surface, at the same time which can be beneficial to understanding each player.

A total of 324 players have been invited to attend the Combine. Players who do not perform at the event risk seeing their draft status drop. Teams will only be able to evaluate players based on individual Pro Day performances.

According to reporting by ESPN, the NFL is currently in discussion with player agents to find common ground and prevent the boycott from happening.

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