Sydney Speaks! Teams value Combine

Former Packers fullback and assistant coach Harry Sydney explains how teams go about evaluating players at the annual NFL Combine, which will be conducted later this week in Indianapolis:

Very soon the new Packers' coaching staff will embark on its first real assignment, which will be to go to Indy and look at the college players that will be taking part at this year's NFL Combine. If you don't understand what goes on there, let me explain from the players', coaches', scouts' and, yes, the dreadful agents' viewpoint!!!!!!!!!!!

This is where supposedly all of the great college players, or selected players, show up to run, jump, catch, throw and shop their abilities, but unfortunately, it doesn't happen this way. The real superstars of college may show up and get their physicals, but they don't take part in any of the drills. Why would they? All they would do is hurt themselves if they look bad, which would cost them money because at this point it's about draft location and getting paid.

Usually the guys will take part in the interviews that are set up so that coaches and scouts get a chance to talk with the players they are interested in selecting. I'll explain that later. The players are judged in so many ways. Oftentimes I used to feel bad for them when I coached. For example they would get to the RCA Dome at allotted times and are shuffled outside this room and are given numbers. Then they are given physicals by different doctors that represent different teams. They are labeled by different numbers, or colors, depending on their health or previous injuries. Then they are sent to another room and are told to take off their shirts and only keep on shorts. This is usually conducted by position. Then when their number is called they go stand on a small stage in front of all the scouts, coaches and everyone in the room. They are asked to get on the scale and their weight is yelled out so everyone can record it, if interested. Then they are asked to spread their arms out so their wing span can be measured. They also measure the size of the hands and distance between the hands and forearms. For running backs that's important because some coaches believe small distance means they could be a fumbler. Remember Travis Jervey? They tried to put him in this category, as well as Daunte Culpepper. It reminded me of a cattle auction or something. I always waited for someone to open their mouths to show their teeth. And in the seats you could hear different coaches saying things like we could put 30 more pounds on that frame, or he's too stumpy. Things like that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then after those tests you have shuttle runs, broad jumps, bench press test all before you step onto the field for any football drills. Like I said, the big-name players in college attend, but do nothing because their agent tells them not to. Every now and then there will be an exception, but not often. Most of the big names like Reggie Bush, A.J. Hawk or Matt Leinart will hold their own private workout which will allow them to dictate when, where and how. Trust me, all the teams will have someone there. The combine is for those college players that aren't real superstars that need the opportunity for exposure. Everyone thinks they know what Vince Young can do, but they aren't sure about Jay Cutler, the quarterback of Vandy.

They take part conducting the drills, which is a good thing because you can see up close how young players handle what you are saying. I liked running the drills because I got to look in their eyes and see how fast things register. If not, the coaches sit up in the stands and record what they see. As a running backs coach I would look at how players made cuts. Did they have to take an extra step, or could they just cut? This showed body control. Then I would look at how easy they caught the ball as well as if they shifted the ball naturally from arm to arm. Then I would look at their confidence level. Remember they all look good in underwear. Things like that just made me want to look at film on them because the eye in the sky doesn't lie. It's all about how they play the game, nothing else should matter. On film you saw whether they played with toughness and could they play the game under fire!!!!!

They record everything and set up meetings with the coaches to interview as many of the players that they have targeted. In these meetings they ask the players a lot of questions about their past, role models, dreams. Just to try and get to know something more about them. And if the scouts are really interested they have already done some backup investigation work, or homework, to see if the player is telling the truth. The Combine is the scouts' Super Bowl. It's their show and they love it!!!!!!!!!!

They are there to try and get clients, simple as that. They will use clients that they already have to try to sell future prospects on the need to have them. Or they will be there trying to negotiate with GM's on future deals. It's all about the business of football.

As you can see it's a football circus with the scouts, coaches and agents trying to find that one player that just might be a diamond in the rough "AT THE COMBINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Harry Sydney

Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to managing editor Todd Korth at, and he will forward it to him.

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