At the combine, forget measurables
Prospects' interviews, position-specific drills offer most to teams
The good news for NFL fans in general and amateur draftniks in particular is that the NFL's annual scouting combine, which begins this week in Indianapolis, is covered in far greater detail than ever before.At a time when not much else is going on in the league, that is absolutely a good thing. More credentialed media descend upon the gathering of scouts, coaches, front office executives, agents and draft-eligible players than ever before. Even better for those hungry for anything non-CBA negotiations related, the entire event is televised. The bad news? The actual relevancy of the information garnered from the combine decreases every single year.
Have a question for Ross Tucker? Connect with him here. He may answer your question in a mailbag column.
Football Today Podcast
Ross Tucker and Matt Williamson react to the latest news on the CBA and franchise tags. Listen
From the inboxQ. Your article about the offseason alluded to the tight, regimented schedule during the season. Yet we've all seen the articles and reports about players who don't put in the "extra time" or make the extra effort during the week in-season. How much independent time is there for players during a week? How much difference did you see between players and was there a strong correlation in the in-week preparation and success or is the off-season work the more critical separating factor? Sean from Austin, Texas A: Sounds like a good idea for a column, Sean, and I may take you up on that. While NFL players' schedules are highly regimented during the season, there is always room to put in extra time, like most jobs I would guess. The first meeting for most teams usually begins at around 7:30 or 8 a.m. Does the player get there an hour early to work out or potentially put some extra individual film time in? Or does he stay for an extra hour or two at the end of the day to go in the ice tub or watch his practice film from that day in greater detail, say after 5 p.m., when most of the other guys have already left for the day? I have found that all of the guys who put in the extra time when "no one was watching" were the guys who most maximized their abilities.
Q. Can somebody explain to me how Cam Newton allegedly cheating on the NCAA and getting paid to play has now turned into a plus for him entering the draft process because "he can handle adversity"?
Shahar from Israel
A: I hadn't heard anyone say that, but it certainly makes sense to me. As an NFL quarterback, overcoming adversity and rising above it is one of the defining characteristics that separates the average from the good and the good from the great. Things like injuries and off-the-field incidents among teammates are common and both a team and a fan base looks to see how the starting quarterback reacts in those situations. Not to mention how he bounces back from a poor performance in the face of the heightened scrutiny that comes with being a franchise's starting quarterback. Newton certainly proved he could perform well in that environment at Auburn. On the flip side, all of that could be offset if NFL teams conclude in their background research work that he has an inherent character flaw as a result of some of the off-field incidents he has been associated with.
Q: What are your thoughts of the NFLPA colluding with the UFL, and rapidly expanding that league in order to encompass the entire NFLPA. Obviously there are huge hurdles to overcome, but at least getting the ball rolling would significantly strengthen the position of the NFLPA. Also, how crazy would a league-wide draft be?Ryan from Calgary, Alberta A: That scenario is highly unlikely, as you mention, but I do think that, if there is a lockout that lasts into September, the UFL could stand to benefit greatly from that. The UFL needs to do whatever it takes on its end to make sure it's ready to take advantage. That scenario might be the UFL's only opportunity to show the American public that it is playing a much better brand of football than anyone realizes. The recent news concerning the financial difficulties that league is having is not promising.
Q: With all the talk about player safety, especially concussions, and the steps the league is taking to prevent them there seems to be one obvious precaution that has been overlooked. Why aren't mouth guards mandatory?
Eric from Fredericksburg, Va.A: Mouth guards do help to prevent concussions, but based upon some of the experts that I have spoken to, their effectiveness in doing so is a bit overstated at times. Does it help? Yes. Does it make a significant difference? The answer appears to either be no -- or that it is debatable. I wouldn't be opposed to mandatory mouth guards, but I can tell you, a bit shamefully, that I never wore one in the NFL. Late in my career -- playing on the wedge on the kickoff return team -- I would put one in, but that was about it. Because I so often played center and because of the intense verbal communication required from that position at the professional level, it was simply not practical for me to wear one on a regular basis. Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams in his seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.