League thinks about shaking up the combine

The NFL is considering making some major changes to its annual scouting combine, including having prospects compete against one another in the 40-yard dash and the bench-press, the New York Times reported Thursday.

The possible changes coincide with the league’s recent effort to make the game more accessible to fans. This year, for instance, the league is allowing 250 select fans to attend the combine for a day. Fans also were allowed to buy tickets to Media Day at this year’s Super Bowl.

Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma runs the 40-yard dash at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine. (Ben Liebenberg/NFL)

“We would not want to do something that was just good for television, or just good for the fans, if it were at the expense of either the football evaluation or the players’ preparation,” said Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations. “It’s a balancing act. The combine works.”

The combine has become a major focus of fan interest in the offseason thanks to live coverage on NFL Network.

Any such changes are likely to face a skeptical response from coaches and team executives.

“This has grown to a football trade show, and I understand that,” former Colts executive Bill Polian said. “What we have to do is be careful not to lose the player personnel evaluation purpose of this.”

“I’m old school,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. “Let’s just roll with how we’re doing it.”

Grubman, however, envisions the combine potentially becoming an event that crosses over into the mainstream.

“When you make it interesting, people want to see it,” Grubman said. “When you let them in, it gets bigger. When it gets bigger, other people want to be there. It goes from football media, who are attracted to it because it’s such a pure event, to popular media, to sponsors because fans are watching.”

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