At first, it seemed obvious that the first ever Veteran Combine was destined to be televised. But the league previously said that wasn’t going to happen.
Something has since changed. The NFL has issued an email blast announcing that the event will be televised at 8:00 p.m. ET Sunday on NFL Network.
With the second (or is it now the third?) round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament still rolling at that hour, the Dalrymple-to-Costanza why-am-I-watching?-because-it’s-on-TV crowd will have something far more compelling to watch on TV. But NFL Network doesn’t go dark during other major sporting events, and the competition arising from more than 100 out-of-work football players vying for one last shot at being signed to a 90-man offseason roster is better than no competition at all.
It’ll ultimately be not much competition. The league may squeeze a team or two to give a handful of these guys a roster spot until after the offseason program ends, but the Veteran Combine will never become a reliable device for finding players who can contribute. Former players are former players for a reason (and sometimes for many reasons). Every team has the ability at any time to bring any former player to town for a workout, and to sign him to a contract.
The Veteran Combine gives a large group of former players a chance to conduct a mass workout at a time and a place where the coaches and General Managers have gathered for the annual meetings. And it’s not impossible that a player or two will stand out. If that happens, however, it’ll show that the 32 teams currently aren’t doing enough to search in every nook and cranny of the available pool of football talent for guys who can contribute. Otherwise, the guys who rise to the top at the Veteran Combine would already have one of up to 2,880 roster spots currently available.
For many players, the Veteran Combine will provide closure, giving them that one last shot they crave before getting on with their post-football lives. For that reason, it will have value.
Now, it also will have value because it will give NFL Network something to put on TV at a time when most American sports fans are transfixed by one of the few sports other than football that has the power to transfix American sports fans.