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NFL prepares for inevitability of paying players to attend the Scouting Combine

Mike Florio and Peter King get ready for the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine by examining the big names to watch in Indy, evaluating the QBs available this year and more.

When it comes to the Scouting Combine, a reckoning is long overdue. The NFL is currently preparing for it.

In comments to Ken Belson and Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent has acknowledged the possibility of paying players to participate in the process.

“Based off the landscape of the sport environment, you have NIL, you’ve got the transfer portal, we have to be prepared for anything in the future,” Vincent said. “So I’m not taking that off the table. I would just say we have to be ready and prepared for all and to discuss all things.”

The question becomes how to properly set the stage for paying players. They aren’t yet represented by the union; thus, it becomes much harder to engineer the kind of collective action that would compel the league to comply. That said, agents and players came together last week, using the threat of boycotting Combine workouts to leverage the league to burst a loose and confusing bubble that would have applied to the proceedings.

Then there’s the reality that any money paid to the incoming players becomes less money that current players receive. The revenue generated by the Combine is shared by the league and the union. Thus, while prospective players will get nothing and like it, the current players have the salary cap increased by the money the Combine generates.

Regardless, the players deserve something for providing the running, jumping, throwing, and catching from which the broader machine profits. Especially now that 10,000 fans will be in the lower bowl, cheering on the participants and adding to the greater sense that the Combine has become as much or more about made-for-TV entertainment as it is about screening candidates for employment.

The iT’s A jOB iNTeRvIEw crowd needs to give it a rest. It’s a meat market. It’s de-humanizing. It’s excessive. It’s not a day or two devoted to sitting and speaking. It’s weeks of being interrogated and tested and scrutinized and whispered about and otherwise subject to the broader cloak-and-dagger gamesmanship in which all teams engage as they try to harvest the best possible players from each and every draft class.

Still, the televised aspects of the Combine aren’t about a job interview. They’re about providing NFL entertainment at a time when NFL games aren’t being played. It’s only fair that the people providing the basis for the entertainment will participate in the fruits of their labor.