With the 2012 Scouting Combine in the books, prospects headed back to their workout destinations to further develop their skill set. While all 32 NFL teams are reviewing medical information, personnel departments are preparing for spring travel to college and university Pro Days and the long draft meetings starting at the end of March. Most teams send their scouts home for Easter, and then everyone is locked in the War Room for the long haul.
Technology continues to improve each year at the Combine in both areas of NFL Network coverage from start to finish and the ability of doctors and trainers to send imaging (x-rays and CT scans) via online computer systems and email accounts. There is no more hand-carrying or using FedEx to send those materials. That is all in the past.
As a former systems analyst in computers before my NFL career, I find myself very intrigued with Under Armour and their partner Zephyr Technology. With precision products, they took a giant step into the future several years ago, with an innovative approach through computer science of monitoring an athleteut possible interest in their clients, while only having a real interest in a few players, and the possible trade scenarios within the top five picks is a high-stakes poker game with a lot of bluffs, while maintaining a true poker face working to fool everyone inside and outside of the organizations by leaking information to get an advantage through confusion.
While the games of deception will continue all the way into the month of April, all 32 teams worked long hard hours in preparation for hell week better known as the NFL Combine. The days leading up to the yearly Combine are long and hard. Head coaches, general managers, along with assistant coaches and scouts find themselves locked in the war rooms, combing over prospect data, creating small hand-held binders with all Combine information from invitee listing to schedules along with interview listings and pertinent information.
In pre-Combine meetings, the area scouts, cross-check scouts and anyone that has visited the colleges and universities, relay all the data on the 330-plus prospects that were invited to the Combine. These meetings are tied to background and character information, and there will be plenty of time for evaluating the players’ DNA (film).
The main focus at the Combine is to dig into the player from several different platforms which includes their medical history (checking for missed playing time due to surgical procedures, concussions, chronic soft-tissue injuries, back and joint problems and inherited diseases). Mental capacity is a major area of concern when talking to the prospects. Teams will learn quickly if there are learning deficiencies (reading, comprehension, and the ability to process football and information).
When it comes to digesting 20 pages of the playbook on a nightly basis for several days in a row during training camp, hitting the football field without a mental error or assignment bust is the key to players making the team vs. those that don’t. Teams must make sure that players don’t have issues like dyslexia (reading, spelling, language, and memory deficits). If teams have evaluated a Blue player with issues of learning and retaining football information, organizations must find out how best he learns, whether it be on film, blackboard, reps on the field or both blackboard and on-field reps.
Checking the prospect’s background, from parental and sibling information; do they have any kids and if so with the same woman or multiple partners. How many sports did they letter in high school, the more sports the better; this shows the prospect’s love for sports and a high athletic skill set and a true competitive nature.
All clubs will gather and confirm character background information, which includes arrests, fights, positive drug tests, immaturity issues on and off campus (multiple parking tickets, problems with the law in the area of disturbing the peace, etc).
While the medical exams, Combine interviews, drill work and psychological testing are the main focus for the week, teams will criss-cross the United States to continue the draft process of evaluating talent and getting to know more about these players and those that were not invited to the 2012 Combine.
Keep in mind the smoke screens will intensify, while teams send coaches, scouts and a large contingent to certain workouts, when they zero in on interest in those players, just to throw the other teams off the trail of truth. It is the game they play in order to gain the advantage and element of deception. Here comes the smoke.