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For NFL teams, Combine is all about the medical tests


Scott Brummett shows a wide bore MRI at St. Francis Hospital, on Jan. 11, 2013 in Indianapolis. For patients who fall under the category of morbidly obese, the hospital uses equipment that can accommodate them. This MRI is 70 cm wide, and can hold a patient to at least 550 lb. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star, Kelly Wilkinson)


For media purposes, the NFL Scouting Combine is a whirl of interviews and player availability.

For television watchers, the 40-yard dashes and drills take center stage.

But for the teams that come to Indianapolis to scout, the priority isn’t anything that happens on the field, but rather behind the scenes at the hospital.

The medical checks shared by 32 teams are the primary benefit for most teams.

National Football Scouting president Jeff Foster asked teams years ago to list their priorities, and the results were loud and clear.

“All 32 teams, medicals were No. 1,” Foster told Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. “All 32 teams, interviews were No. 2. Then there was a mix between the on-field stuff and the psychological testing.”

So for the seven-day duration, players are poked and prodded and tested and quizzed on their medical histories, with no detail to minute.

“This will be the most comprehensive exam they can ever hope to get,” said Dr. Arthur Rettig, one of the Colts team doctors. “If possible, you want to save [a team] from investing a few million dollars in someone who may play one year and then he’s done.

“It’s our job to try and predict that.”

Retting said he expected to order up 350 MRI scans, using 17 machines they have on hand, including three mobile ones at Lucas Oil Stadium. In the past, they’ve found tumors in players while looking at other injuries.

Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo said he was amazed by the thoroughness of the process, going through six orthopedic stations, X-rays, MRIs, along with heart tests, baseline concussion tests and drug scans.

“You basically lay on a table in the middle of the room and you’ve got people coming over and poking and prodding on you, fiddling with your ankle or your knee or whatever it is you possibly had wrong,” Castonzo said. “You kind of feel like a corpse at the morgue. Everyone is trying to figure out what’s wrong.”

For NFL teams trying to avoid investing millions in a bunch of stiffs, the process is worth it.