Sydney Speaks! NFL's meat market

Potential NFL draft prospects have gathered in recent days in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. They are tested in many ways, but's Harry Sydney, who has participated in the talent evaluation as an assistant coach for the Packers, explains what the combine cannot determine from each athlete.

For about a week or so all the buzz has been about all the selected college players gathering in Indianapolis for what is supposed to be the event that all the scouts and coaches converge on to find that next big thing, but what they are really looking for they can't find there. It's the NFL Scouting Combine, which means everything you wanted to know about college players and were afraid to ask can now be found.

In my opinion, the Combine accomplishes nothing, except it gets most of the college players together for a giant physical and that saves a little money, supposedly, for the NFL, but does it?

Trust me, I speak from years of experience. Let's take a walk again down memory lane. The Combine becomes a meat market for coaches, scouts and agents. Sometimes it reminded me of the old slave days the way these athletes are jabbed, twisted, pinched and paraded. They get physicals and go through all types of tests for their speed, strength, intelligence, and also for their football ability. One of my favorite parts of the combine is when they walk a college athlete into a room with nothing but his shorts on and he would have to stand on this podium and spread his arms. They would measure his wing span, or make him turn in circle, and you would hear some scout say something like, "Yeah, he could gain more inches in his arm," or "he could carry 20 more pounds on that frame easily." I always expected someone to yell out "check his teeth!"

So, here you have every team represented by everyone involved in football at different times depending on when your position works out. Coaches will be in and out but the scouts stay the whole time trying to interview everyone on their list. For some reason coaches and scouts think that it's necessary to ask a potential NFL player about his role model. Like that's going to have something to do if he can make a play or not.

It's not like the players haven't talked to an agent and been advised what to say, because every answer might mean more money in the contract. Speaking of agents, guess where most of them are at this week? They are at the Combine trying to get some of their clients to introduce them to more meat because usually most of the first rounders already know how good they are, so they aren't going to work out anyway. They show up and look good enough to tell the world when their private workout is going to be and this is where most of them really start to learn the business. That's what has happened because the college season is over for so long that many players take time off and get lazy, party and they have to get back into the swing of things so they don't work out at the Combine. They usually wait until sometime in late March or early April because that gives them time to work with whatever specialist they need to make the numbers look better. Trust me, every team wants to be at that workout because they don't want to miss something special.

I'm not sure what scouts and coaches expect to find at the combine that they don't already know. The reason I say that is because football is played on the field and the eye in the sky doesn't lie. Yes, it's nice to talk to the player, but what if he says all the right things and plays like crap? Or he passes all the tests with flying colors, but when you put the tape on he looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane? Then what? I remembered when I coached and Ron Wolf wanted everyone to watch eight games on a player before you could really evaluate someone, and I couldn't believe it because in football leopards don't change their spots. As the running backs coach I didn't like it because as a player you learned to see, feel and interpret and I could see who blinked and who didn't by how they responded in action. I could get a feel of what their athletic ability was by how easily they adjusted on each play. I could interpret their toughness by how hard they played and when they played. You see, these are things that you find only by watching them under the gun of live competition, and that's not at the Combine. It didn't take eight films to determine a player's ability.

At the Combine they test for speed, strength, agility, and almost everything under the sun but to me football comes down to the most important thing which THE COMBINE DOESN'T TEST FOR, which is HEART!!!!!!

Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at

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