It's the most wonderful time of the year!
The NFL combine is upon us, and while draft season has been in full swing for some time, the combine begins the big stretch of nonstop draft talk between now and May. For all NFL fans, this time of the year abounds with hope. For fans whose teams didn't make the playoffs, the draft represents their Super Bowl—the time to turn it all around, this time.
Coverage of the combine starts Saturday on NFL Network and NFL.com. However, you can follow along each day with Bleacher Report, as we keep you abreast of what's ahead and what transpires each day. Matt Miller, Mike Freeman and Matt Bowen will all be covering the event and are great follows on Twitter.
For More Preview Combine Reading
- Position-by-Position Combine Primer (Michael Schottey)
- Inside the Drills and Tests (Bowen)
- Burning Questions Heading into the Combine (Ty Schalter)
- Official Invite List (National Scouting)
Available for Interview on Thursday: Group 1 (Offensive Linemen, Specialists); Group 2 (Offensive Linemen); Group 3 (Tight Ends)
Arriving in Indianapolis on Thursday: Group 4 (Quarterbacks, Receivers); Group 5 (Quarterbacks, Receivers); Group 6 (Running Backs)
Headed to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine! Thank you to all my friends and family for the prayers and support! 1 Thessalonians 5:18— Zach Hocker (@zhocker18) February 19, 2014
The first group arrives on Wednesday and doesn't begin physical testing until Friday, when it will do the bench press and specialists will get some field time in. That doesn't mean, though, that these players will just be sitting around and enjoying the sights in Indianapolis.
Already on Wednesday night, players with injury history will head to the hospital for X-rays and extra poking and prodding. They'll also start the official interview process with teams, where they will be shuttled around hotel rooms in a crazy kind of macho speed dating.
Monday Morning Quarterback's Andrew Brandt wrote about the process:
Players are well prepared for these sessions, even working with 'interview coaches' such as longtime NFL personnel executive Ken Herock. The answers have become largely predictable—every player loves his mother, his coach, his teammates, his university, etc.—with little probative value. My goal was to get players off-script to see them re-focus.
Early Thursday morning, long before the sun is up, the players will be waking up and heading to physical examinations—so early, in fact, that I once caught a player sleeping while standing against a wall in the bathroom. When I woke him up to go to the media interview he was late for, he explained how he'd had less than three hours of sleep the night before.
At one point in these young men's lives, football was a game. Now it's a job—a demanding job at that.
The physical is one of the most invasive physicals one can imagine. In many ways, the combine is simply the world's biggest and most heralded job interview. Teams are going to make multimillion dollar investments in some of these prospects and want to know absolutely everything that might help mitigate their risk.
Combine media interviews are often useless events, as repetitive questions are asked time and again from reporters who barely know the prospects they're interviewing. Even those who know and want to talk about more meaningful things end up getting meaningless answers from prospects who have been well-coached in artful dodging by their respective agents.
The one player who might make the most headlines on Day 1 could be Colt Lyerla (TE Oregon), who left school this season and might have the most red flags in the entire draft class. The physical skills are there, and if he's been training, he could reassert himself as a viable draft pick. Teams will be watching him very closely throughout this process, even at a podium in front of assembled media.
Coaches and front-office personnel will also take some turns at the podiums over the course of the first couple of mornings. Miami Dolphins fans can look forward to their head coach, Joe Philbin, as he's first on the list at 9:45 a.m. ET on Thursday.
Other notable interviews: San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh (12:15 p.m. ET), Denver Broncos head coach John Fox (12:45 p.m. ET), New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan (2:45 p.m. ET) and Seattle Seahawks vice president and general manager John Schneider (4:30 p.m. ET).
A full list of coach and personnel media availability can be found on the NFL communications website.
The second group, consisting of quarterbacks, receivers and running backs will arrive in Indianapolis and go through the same routine as the first group. This rotation will continue until the last group arrives in town on Saturday as most of the media leaves and the on-the-field testing begins.
Stay locked on to Bleacher Report for all of your combine coverage.