NFL combines sharply increasing COVID protocols

The NFL has sent a letter to prospects invited to the 2022 NFL Combine scheduled for early March. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted a copy of what was sent to playersshowing guidelines for a dead event on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The event does not require Combine attendees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but face coverings are recommended for all players and attendees and testing will be available for all attendees. If a participant tests positive, isolation procedures and medical advice will also be available.

Because participants are not required to be vaccinated or protected, the event sets guidelines to isolate each player.

“Players will be limited to securing Combine venues during their entire stay in Indianapolis for their protection,” reads the letter. “Players who violate this policy at any time will be disqualified from further participation and sent home.”

Players will be allowed one guest, provided it is a medical support person. This guest can be a physiotherapist, massage therapist, sports trainer, sports psychologist or any other professional whose goal is to improve a player’s performance.

Anyone with access to players, including medical support, must follow what the letter calls the “Combine Level 1 COVID Guidelines,” which require the individual to be fully vaccinated and boosted, if eligible. They must be symptom-free and must wear face coverings when around players.

In addition to player isolation, the Combine is taking other important steps to ensure reduced exposure to COVID-19, including “fewer days on site, reduced testing schedule…scheduled medical, personalized meal options/schedules , accommodation in a single room and a secure environment”.

The fear is that with increased restrictions, many potential drafts are opting out of training in Indianapolis, opting instead to display their talents at their respective Pro Days.

Sadly, the only players this hurts are those from smaller schools who can compare their abilities to prospects from larger schools in the Combine. The importance of Combine and Pro days for big school players has been downplayed over time, with scouts relying more on game movies than Combine results. Sometimes a Combine elite performance, like DK Metcalf‘s, or extremely poor performance, such as Orlando Brown‘s, will influence talent evaluators on borderline players, but, for the most part, the decisions were made at the end of the college football playoffs.

Regardless of how Metcalf and Brown’s Combine performed, however, they both had plenty of scouts in their Pro Days. The same cannot be said for the FCS athletes and small schools in the group of 5. Look for the athletes from these small schools to make less noise about the increased restrictions, while the Power 5 stars of the college football world may be less willing to tolerate restrictions and more likely to choose a singular performance on their Pro Day.

In addition to the athletes, Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network pointed out that future employees of the event expressed their displeasure with the work rules imposed, including the risk of being sent home.

Regardless of who chooses to wait out their Pro Day and who is undeterred by the increased restrictions, the 2022 NFL Combine is sure to be hugely different from years past.



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