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Did Reuben Foster altercation result from an effort to get under players’ skin?


ESPN made a big splash on Friday night with the report that Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster was sent home from the Scouting Combine after having a “heated altercation” with a hospital worker. After further review, it’s looking and sounding a lot less sinister.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that a “miscommunication” resulted in the argument escalating, after Foster had been waiting “for an extended period” to be examined. Foster became impatient, and he began to question the worker. The worker reacted in a negative way, and it resulted in Foster and the hospital worker going face to face in a heated exchange.

Per Schefter, league officials are reviewing the procedures that triggered the incident, which occurred with other players present. (Which could partially explain Foster’s decision to adopt the tough-guy approach.) The league also is looking into whether improvements can be made when it comes to letting the players know why they’re waiting and for how long.

It also makes sense to explore whether the hospital worker was a little too aggressive, abrupt, and/or sanctimonious.

A league spokesman tells PFT that Foster left for “personal reasons.” However, PFT has confirmed that, indeed, an altercation occurred while Foster was waiting -- and that nothing like that had ever happened before even though plenty of other players have waited plenty of times.

Coincidentally, NFLPA president Eric Winston touched on that very issue at the outset of his recent visit to PFT Live at the Scouting Combine.

“It’s a tough week,” Winston said, reflecting on his experiences from 2006. “I remember flying in and getting right to it. Meetings and the examination process. They get you up early to drug test you, then they put you through the medical paces and pull on you, prod you. I think they almost in a weird way, at least back then, I feel like they tried to piss you off a little bit. They tried to get you uncomfortable and then talk to you and see how you are. It’s probably too rigorous of a job interview.”

None of that excuses acting inappropriately, but would it surprise anyone if, in an era of scripted talking points for face-to-face interviews with teams, the process has been engineered to apply stress under circumstances where the players don’t think anyone is paying attention?

The lesson for every other player who will attend every future Scouting Combine is clear: You need to be “on” for the full time there, and you need to assume that everything you do is being watched closely and carefully.