by Jack Bechta
February 22, 02010
Every year at this time, a group of draft prospects makes a decision not to participate in the NFL Combine drills. For most of them, it sends the wrong message to decision-makers.
When top-rated prospect Ndamukong Suh declared that he’ll be working out in Indy this week, it came as a surprise to some because most top prospects defer their workouts until their college pro days. Suh’s decision to perform is great for both his draft stock and his brand.
For those who opted not to work out, I hope they have good reason and are being advised by competent agents and trainers.
Who shouldn’t work out? Anyone who’s nursing an injury that would affect his performance, especially the 40-yard dash. If a player is uncertain he can perform some or all of the skill tests, he should probably wait until his pro day. The key is to go to Indy with a plan. If the player is not going to perform, he should make that clear, through his agent, to NFL teams and combine organizers prior to attending.
My advice: Do not make a game-time decision at the combine.
In 1998, client Tim Dwight went to the combine with strict instructions not to run his 40 or attempt any drills. He was nursing a severe groin injury from the season that was taking a long time to heal. However, once the reigning Big Ten 100-meter champ arrived, Tim’s adrenaline and competitive juices got the best of him and he decided to run. The result was his worst 40 time ever: 4.63 seconds. Horrible! The projected third-round speedster was taken in the middle of the fourth round.
The conundrum for players like Tim who are tough and don’t make excuses for injuries is that they won’t tell anybody if they’re hurt. So he gets no credit for running when he shouldn’t have. A good 40 time is a must for receivers, DBs and running backs.
Those who are healthy should perform. The combine is a test in which players and trainers already know the answers. Simply performing can make a great first impression.
While at the East-West Shrine Game last month, I ran into Bill Parcells at practice. We began talking about one of my retired O-linemen, former Patriots guard Todd Rucci. In the middle of our conversation, Parcells turned to Cowboys scout Walter Juliff, who was standing next to him, and said, “I fell in love with Rucci at the combine. I didn’t know a thing about him, but when he ran his first 40, that was it for me. I drafted him in the middle of the second round.”
Rucci is a smart guy. When he got to the combine, he was in a monster class of behemoth offensive linemen like Willie Roaf (6-6, 325) and Lincoln Kennedy (6-6½, 335). At 6-5 and 285 pounds, Todd felt small next to those guys. When everyone else was on the turf warming up for the 40, he made it a point to stay far away from them so he couldn’t be measured against their size. He actually went to the sideline, away from the linemen, to stand near the receivers and stretch and warm up when they did – and where, of course, he was the biggest guy. He even recalled Parcells sitting in the second row watching him warm up.
Todd played to his strengths of flexibility and athleticism as much as he could. After missing the first four games of his senior season at Penn State and being snubbed by the postseason all-star games, he easily could have fallen through the cracks. But the combine was an opportunity to make a good impression on the decision-makers and the Big Tuna -- which he did.
Good luck this week to all the draft prospects, especially my five who will be attending, running and performing.
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