It never hurts to have an attractive significant other. Unless, apparently, you're a high-profile college quarterback in an interview room with NFL teams at the Scouting Combine.
Appearing Wednesday on The Dan Patrick Show, Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles was asked to tell the audience the weirdest question teams asked him at the combine. Bortles indicated that nothing was too over the top, but indicated teams had a strange obsession with asking him about his girlfriend.
"[They asked] if we come to town, will she be there for dinner and stuff like that,” Bortles told Patrick. “They knew [about his girlfriend] going into the meeting. I think that was kinda the angle, how I would react to it.”
Lindsey Duke, Bortles' girlfriend, had her own little brush with viral fame as UCF's national profile rose throughout the season. Much in the same way plenty of folks regressed to caveman times when discussing Katherine Webb—the girlfriend of former Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron—the borderline inappropriateness was inflicted on Duke.
In an ESPN profile of Bortles in January, UCF head coach George O'Leary famously went on record, saying: "I would hope as a head coach that the numbers would be reversed, but obviously you haven’t seen his girlfriend. She deserves six million Googles."
Duke and Bortles have taken everything in stride. Bortles seemed unperturbed by teams asking him about his girlfriend, calling it merely "awkward."
And NFL teams asking weird questions at the combine is nothing new. The interview room is the one place where general managers and coaches test the mental makeup of potential draft picks, and judging how they handle uncomfortable situations or questions is part of the job. If a player has a reputation as a hothead or teams hear whispers about a "different" personality, it's only due diligence for them to see for themselves.
Sometimes, it's as harmless as a team asking a player his favorite team to use in Madden. Others, like when former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute, crosses a sinister, overly personal line.
Teams asking Bortles about Duke is somewhere in the middle. Bortles' relationship with Duke is nobody's business but his own—unless it spills into the locker room or begins affecting his performance. There has been nothing to indicate Bortles' relationship affected his team at UCF—far from it, considering the team won the Fiesta Bowl last season—so NFL teams have little reason beyond satisfying their frat-house mentality to ask about her.
It's one of those murky areas where the NFL steps right up to the line on employment law but doesn't step over. Last year, both Raiders tight end Nick Kasa and Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell said teams asked them about their relationships with women.
"They really didn't ask about my sexuality," Bell told MLive.com. "They were just kind of asking like, 'Do I talk to a lot of girls?' and on little things like that. It's not a big deal at all. I definitely didn't mean to make headlines about it or anything."
Is NFL teams asking Blake Bortles about his girlfriend harmless or out of line?
Odds are you won't hear about some of the worst things asked in Indianapolis this year, or they won't come out for months or even years down the line. While players may get offended by a line of questioning from a team, they are also looking to be gainfully employed. Leaking any truly hurtful things said behind closed doors could do more damage to a player's stock than help.
The Ireland fiasco scared many teams off of their hardest-line questions, so it's possible the conversations were actually harmless. Until we truly find out one way or another, it seems Duke and Madden are the two things teams care about most behind closed doors.
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