NFL Combine changes protocols to avoid boycott


Indianapolis, Ind. – March 1: Defensive back Daniel Thomas of Auburn runs a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 29, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Courtesy of Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL and NFL Players Association changed and removed some COVID protocols and restrictions for the 2022 scouting combine after news revealed over 150 players were set to boycott the event. The combine sent a memo to all players concerning certain policy changes, but they continued to encourage players to take precautions for their safety.

The boycott was initially organized by 14 agencies representing 157 players, many considered high-profile prospects. They felt that the restrictions would leave their clients at a distinct disadvantage in testing compared to previous years. The lack of access to a player’s personal medical and training staff, along with the strict regulations on their free time, had many agents worried that their client’s poor test results may negatively affect their draft stock.

Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Indianapolis, Ind. – March 1: Defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. of Minnesota runs the 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb.29, 2020, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Courtesy of Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The NFL quickly sent out a memo as they adjusted the protocols to respond to the imminent threat of losing nearly half the invited prospects. Concerning masks, they said, “as has been the case throughout the pandemic, we continue to evolve our combined policies and procedures in consultation with medical experts… While masks continue to be required for air travel and during medical exams at the combine, wearing a mask at other times while on-site is recommended, but not required.” They also addressed the original bubble restrictions and said, “We encourage all players to remain within the secure combine areas at all times for your safety. However, if you would like to leave the secure areas during free time in your schedule, you are now permitted to do so at your own risk.” The memo also addressed the issue of training and medical personnel for each player. It provided an avenue for each player to bring the people necessary to prepare them for this event.

This combine is especially crucial to separate many prospects in position groups where there is believed to be no true number one prospect that stands above others, such as quarterback. Defensive backs will also be interesting to watch as consensus number one cornerback in the country, Derek Stingley, out of LSU, opted out of attending the combine on February 28. With Stingley’s absence, prospects such as Sauce Gardner, Kyler Gordon and Andrew Booth will be able to compete amongst each other in hopes of making an impression and becoming the next best option. Wide receivers will be interesting to watch. They are a very young class at the top, primarily juniors leaving early, such as Garret Wilson from Ohio State and Jameson Williams from Alabama, who is expected to go early in the draft. Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson will try to prove themselves as the top edge defender in the draft, with the Jaguars reportedly looking to draft the top edge in the class with the first overall pick.

These stories and many more will unfold when the combine starts on Tuesday, March 01, 2022.