Around this time last year, I don’t think many people in this country anticipated that the coronavirus would take the sort of toll that it has. In fact, most people were probably still largely unfamiliar with it altogether. Little did we know how much it would impact our lives—and the NFL season as well, among many, many other things.
Even once the reality of the magnitude set in, we still continued to hold out hope that it would be better by such and such a date. Now that we’re beginning to roll into the 2021 NFL calendar, the reality is that that date still hasn’t come. And so that means that Covid-19 will continue to influence and shape the 2021 season.
Needless to say, the first vestiges of that will be felt in the pre-draft process. While the Senior Bowl is still taking place, it is being carried out in a scaled-down form, with relatively few team representatives permitted to attend.
According to reports, the NFL Scouting Combine might not even take place—at least in any conventional sense, and not even in Indianapolis, where it has been traditionally located. Via Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, league officials held a conference call yesterday in which they discussed preliminary plans for a decentralized Combine.
Noting that the one most crucial detail for teams was the medical history, this may be the one facet of the event that still has some level of centralization. The vast majority of athletes who are training for the Combine do so in California, Florida, Arizona, or Texas, and it has been suggested that players would have their medicals conducted by team doctors traveling to these states at local hospitals—also noting that the doctors would likely have received the Covid-19 vaccine by that point.
Outside of the medical process, however, the current discussions indicate that there will be no centralized workouts. Rather, it has been suggested that Pro Days would be more formalized, with the events being run by representatives of NFL teams to help bring a uniformity to the process.
While this might all sound premature, the reality is that the Combine takes place next month, and we’re already in the middle of January, so we’re really not far away. It’s unlikely that the situation around the country is going to be dramatically different by then.
The plans can still change for the event, however, insofar as it is a singular ‘event’. These are simply discussions that have taken place yesterday. There have been no decisions made as of yet.