INDIANAPOLIS — After the Super Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine is easily the league’s largest media event.
And it only keeps growing.
An NFL spokesman told me that the league issued a combine-record 715 credentials, beating the previous mark of 628, set last year. Extra tables and chairs had to be added to accommodate the heavier influx of writers and broadcasters seeking to interview some of the nation’s top college prospects invited to participate in drills from now through Tuesday, as well as NFL coaches and executives.
Unlike the Super Bowl, which draws several thousand reporters from around the world and those not necessarily specializing in football or sports coverage, the combine attracts mostly football-intensive journalists from NFL and college beats.
Another major difference: No off-the-wall, entertainment-type folks dressed in outlandish costumes and working marriage proposals and other bizarre requests into their questions.
It’s ironic that the section of Lucas Oil Stadium housing print and broadcast journalists is the Baker & Daniels Club (named after a local law firm), a high-end dining and drinking area for suite holders at Colts games.
“Not the place for an unwashed group like this,” one reporter cracked.
Two large podiums are set up in the middle of the room for news conferences staged by select coaches and executives (usually newcomers or those from teams holding higher picks) and higher-profile college players. The lower-profile players end up at circular tables, generally surrounded by just enough chairs for media (often from the location of that player’s college) looking to spend a little time with him. The mission is as much about stocking up material for use in the weeks/days leading up to the draft as it is about finding immediate, news-breaking stuff (which tends to be in short supply).
So far, coaches have drawn the largest crowds. And the biggest draw to this point is new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, formerly of Stanford. He drew a few laughs when he said he didn’t want to address the controversy over whether the Dolphins interviewed him for their coaching job and when he offered an abrupt “no” to a question about if he was approached by the Browns.
A former Colts quarterback, Harbaugh stood just feet away from a gigantic photo of his successor, Peyton Manning. Harbaugh was the starter for the Colts’ 1997 season finale, which they lost and, therefore, were able to gain the top overall draft pick in ’98 that allowed them to select Manning.
The next-largest media crowd here is expected to form in front of the most quotable person in the NFL: Jets coach Rex Ryan.