After a one-year hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the NFL Scouting Combine is set to return to Indianapolis in early March. However, there is some trouble brewing in the midwest: dozens of players are planning to boycott parts of the event to protest league-driven plans to create a bubble environment for those participating.
Agents from 13 separate agencies are expected to recommend on Monday their clients sit out the testing portion of the Scouting Combine set to begin March 1. A minimum of 155 previously invited draft prospects would therefore not participate in on-field workouts.
Considering that 324 prospects have been invited to attend the Combine, nearly half of them sitting out the most prominent part of the one-week event would be a bad look for and challenging situation for the NFL. However, the league’s own proposed isolation rules are at the cause of this issue and gave agents and the NFL Players Association alike the ammunition they needed to push for change.
The NFL’s plans would force players into a bubble throughout their time in Indianapolis, with consequences such as dismissal from the event for those violating the rules. Those rules are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however.
Both the NFLPA and player agencies have long been opposed to the Combine in its current format, something pointed out by the players union in a recent letter sent to various agents:
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. The combination of the NFL’s proposed “bubble” and 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.
Our union has always encouraged players to take control of their careers from the very beginning and we appreciate that agents are looking at ways to support that goal.
Agencies share a similar view of the event. Mike McCartney, who, among others, represents former New England Patriots Joe Thuney and Ryan Izzo, took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the Combine.
“As an agent, I struggle with the combine,” McCartney wrote. “Players get optimal nutrition and rest for games. The combine? Almost the opposite. Improper rest and 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 NFL has not yet released a statement in response to the planned boycott.
The Scouting Combine is scheduled to take place March 1 through March 7, and typically includes a mix of on-field workouts, off-field testing, and interviews. Furthermore, with agents and general managers alike all in the same city for an entire week, it serves as the unofficial starting point for free agency.