Combine changes could lead to longer stays for players

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The football guys got the win they were hoping for, with yesterday’s announcement that the NFL Scouting Combine was staying in Indianapolis at least through the 2021 season. Of course, they’ll have to adjust a bit to keep their preferred location, with the on-field drills moving later in the day to satisfy the league’s business-side need for television inventory.

That’s going to require some adjustment for everyone, to what is a tightly packed schedule for players once they arrive.

According to Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star, officials with National Football Scouting, Inc. (which organizes the event) believe it will mean at least one more night in Indy for each player. The on-field drills are usually  their last item on the schedule before they leave town, and if they’re doing them at night, it will be harder to get a flight home afterward.

Upon arrival, players are registered, put through comprehensive medical and psychological  testing, rotating groups to maximize the efficiency of the event. Players also generally have their 15-minute Q-and-A sessions with individual teams at night, so those will have to adjust as well.

“Logistically, it’s a challenge to, No. 1, make sure the player experience is positive in terms of their travel, the opportunity to rest,” NFS president Jeff Foster said. “We can’t do too much testing or interviews all at one time. No. 2, we have to make sure the club personnel can evaluate in all aspects of any event for any position.”

While some worry the short-term nature of the new contract (through 2021, with a series of one-year options) is a sign of an eventual move to another city, Foster thinks the schedule change works to the advantage of Indianapolis, with its compact and accessible downtown hotels, nearby hospitals, and connected system of hotels.

“I think it’s critical to the success of the event,” Foster said. “Especially when you’re making a big change like moving to prime time.”

More than anything, the football operations side will like to work in familiar settings because they are creatures of routine, even if that routine is being shifted a bit to make way for television.

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