The Veteran Combine: A Tale of Nostalgia, Delusion & Obsolescence
Michael Sam was one of the attendants at the Veteran's Combine
Anyone who is a fan of football can tell you how hard it is to actually get into the league. If a player wants to make it to the ultimate level they have dedicate their entire lives to reach that goal - and only the smallest percentage will succeed.
However, just making it to the NFL does not guarantee that you will have elongated success. It doesn't even guarantee that you will have any success.
Turnover margins are ridiculously high - players are shipped in and shipped out quicker than the new version of the Iphone. Coaches, GMs, scouts, etc are always looking for the next "diamond in the rough".
Enter the NFL Veteran's Combine.
This was the first year that the NFL decided to showcase all of its outcasts from prior seasons. If a player(s) was cut due to injury, lack of production or money - it doesn't matter. The point is that you are getting a chance to demonstrate your "skills" all over again in hopes of finding another opportunity to play.
But when I say "skills", I really mean "talent you once had but has deteriorated over time".
Around 100 players showed up to make their claim for a roster spot. Former players such as Brady Quinn, Mikel Leshoure, Adam Carriker and Felix Jones all took part in the combine.
A lot of the players like Carriker and Quinn have been out of football for a couple of years. Jones didn't play at all in 2014.
So what makes people think they are better now?
Athletes can do all of the right things to ensure that they are at the top of their game when it comes to physical health and wellness, but there is one certainty for all of them - they cannot defeat time.
Normally, if a player can't find a job in the NFL they will sign with a CFL team or play Arena Football. Others maintain a strict diet/workout plan to keep them in football shape, but as you age your body wears down, no matter what you do to try and maintain your health.
Strength is easier to retain than speed when it comes to age, causing you to lose that extra step as you get older. Just look at some of the 40 times yesterday compared to the rookie combine times:
|Felix Jones, RB (Arkansas)||2008: 4.47 2015: 4.79|
|Da'Rel Scott, RB (Maryland)||2011: 4.31 2015: 4.74|
|Harvey Unga, FB (Penn St.)||2010: 4.59 2015: 4.95|
|Adam Carriker, DE (Nebraska)||2007: 4.72 2015: 5.20|
|Jamaal Anderson, DE (Arkansas)||2007: 4.75 2015: 5.25|
I didn't post Michael Sam's time due to the fact that I am still confused on how you are considered a veteran despite never playing a regular-season snap. Regardless, his time indeed dropped in the past year. He couldn't even finish the forty in five seconds flat.
Felix Jones is just 27 years old. Da'rel Scott simply fell off a cliff. Mikel Leshoure lost 0.2 seconds and he is only 24!
There are high schoolers that are faster than these guys. Hell, Rich Eisen ran a 40-yard dash in six seconds flat.
Now, take this and add the fact that 60% of these listed players were first-round draft picks that had little to no production. The other two were already against the odds - one was a seventh-round pick and the other was a seventh-round pick in the supplemental draft.
Again, I reiterate: What makes people think they are better now?
These players were once considered elite and now they are below the totem pole. They can't even make a practice squad.
Who in the world thought this was a good idea?
While watching the Veteran's Combine, I felt as if it were some kind of cruel joke on the players. It reminded me of when my mother used to drag me, as a kid, from yard sale to yard sale in search of that one dresser or computer desk we so desperately needed. It was always hot, boring and smelled like old cedar and mustard. We would go through piles and piles of junk - only to realize that it was indeed junk.
It may have looked good at one point many years ago, but now it's just junk. Period.
It was so depressing and hard to watch - I would have been more excited to sit around and count all of the individual pieces of carpet fiber in my house.
I mean, damn, I am desperate for the NFL to have something to talk about. But this? This my friends, this is an insult.
Not only was there the feeling of whether I should laugh or cry at the immense lack of talent, but the delusion exhibited - primarily by Brady Quinn - was astounding. He believes that at age 30, he can have a "Josh McCown-type of revival".
This is in fact the Brady Quinn, who has only played one season in the last five and amassed a little over 3,000 passing yards in his entire seven-year career.
There are so many thing wrong with his statement I could write another article on just that.
For the players, you would think they would rather go through the private workouts than attend this sideshow. It seemed as if the NFL is putting together a highlight reel for the Rookie Symposium of what happens to you if you don't take the game seriously.
Look, I get it. In the end it is a good idea because it does actually give players a very good shot to do what they love again. This time, they get to do it in front of everyone insted of just a few teams.
Even though the chances of getting back into the league are very small, at least the NFL is giving them another chance.
And they (the NFL) are obviously doing this for those lost among the waiver wire - the ones who have had tough luck whether it be injuries, bad front office situations or other factors, right?
Well, yes - but you also have to pay $400 to get in. I thought audiences paid to go see comedy shows - I didn't know the performers had to.
It's just another lump in the road until Draft Day.