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Potential changes to the NFL Scouting Combine could completely change the event

One of the biggest pre-draft events might look drastically different in 2021.

NFL Combine - Day 6 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2020-2021 NFL season has been different. No fans in seats, players missing games due to testing positive or COVID-19 and games being moved/postponed due to outbreaks. Well, it seems one of the most celebrated pre-NFL Draft event could be looking drastically different in 2021 too.

I am talking about the NFL Scouting Combine.

With protocols still being in place both for collegiate and professional sports, the flock of prospects which usually overtakes Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis will still be there, but not the way fans have come to enjoy the event in past years.

According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, here are some of the changes which might happen for the even this season:

  • Concepts centered on regionalized medical checks, with teams allowed to send one or two people (either doctors or trainers) each to attend. Teams made clear to the NFL that the gathering of medical information was the one piece of the combine that was most vital and hardest for them to replicate independently. The likelihood now is the NFL will have the checks at hospitals in places where large numbers of players are doing combine prep—like Florida, California, Arizona and Texas (85 percent of prospects are working out in those four states)—to cut down on players’ travel. Also worth noting: many team docs traveling to those sites will have been vaccinated.
  • The NFL Physicians Society and the Pro Football Athletic Trainers Society have been working on the safest format for performing the four phases of medical evaluation: Interview and history gathering; the internal medical exam; the orthopedic exam; and lab and x-ray work. The first two phases could be pulled off virtually via Teleheath.
  • More formalized pro days to replace the lost workouts. This would mean either team or league officials conducting drills and testing on campus, with everything standardized and information dispersed as it would be at the combine.
  • Zoom interviews. This shouldn’t be too much of an adjustment—starting in mid-March of last year and going all the way up to the 2020 NFL draft, this is how business was done. So much as teams might lose in face-to-face interactions, it’s not something that’s foreign to them.
  • Another contingency discussed has been just moving the combine to April (the NCAA tournament bubble takes much of March Madness off the table). But that would likely necessitate moving the draft back, and the league has shown no appetite for doing that.

The NFL having this event is key to teams getting a feel for the prospects who could become part of their organization when the draft rolls around. It just might look different. Either way, it is an near certainty the NFL will both publicize, and air, the events regardless when, or where, they are being held.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for the upcoming offseason with NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.