With the NFL Combine less than a week away, pro football prospects around the country are putting in work training for the 40-Yard Dash, Three-Cone Drill, Broad Jump, Vertical Leap and other tests they will be subjected to in Indianapolis—tests that will determine their future.
In recent years, the weight given to performance at the Combine has come under more scrutiny, and many wonder whether too much emphasis is placed on a player's 40 time rather than his college game tape and his ability to catch or throw a football. Still, prospects focus all their energy on Combine-specific training, because the fact remains that a good performance in Indy greatly boosts an athlete's chances of making it to the NFL with a fat contract.
Count New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick among those who say athletes make a mistake by engaging in Combine-specific training, instead of focusing on becoming better football players heading into their rookie season.
"I think that's a huge mistake that a lot of those players make, but I'm sure they have their reasons for doing it," Belichick told nesn.com. "We're training our players to play football, not to go through a bunch of those February drills. Yeah, our training is football-intensive. We train them to get ready to play and ultimately that's what they're going to do. Maybe for some of those guys, another activity in between or a pro day or whatever it is, but in the end, they're going to make their career playing football."
Belichick wasn't done.
"I think there are a lot of players—and I think a lot of players learn from that—that look at their rookie year and feel like, 'I wasn't really as physically well prepared as maybe I was in college or what I will be in [my] succeeding years in the league,' and train more for football and train less for the broad jump and three-cone drill and stuff like that," he continued. "I think a lot of those guys hopefully learn that lesson and intensify their physical football training after they've had that year of, in a lot of cases, I would say non-football training or very limited training for actually football."
Though Belichick's point is well-taken, if an NFL prospect decides not to train for the drills he will be required to perform at the Combine, and ends up doing poorly, he may never get a chance to prove himself on an NFL field. This is especially true for fringe players, guys from smaller schools who are projected to go in the later rounds or not at all. If those guys don't stand out at the Combine, they'll have no shot at being picked up by a pro team. Of all coaches, Belichick should understand this, since the Patriots are experts at finding proverbial diamonds in the rough.
Either Belichick is playing coy, or he doesn't understand how his counterparts at other teams go about finding players.
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