Indianapolis is an enjoyable city any time of year. But every winter it transforms for this strange NFL convention, the place to be in late February/early March if you’ve ever wanted to see an NFL offensive line coach drinking Yuengling at a Dick’s Last Resort after midnight, or a high-profile agent huddling with a cap management executive over a $30 Caesar salad at Don Shula’s steakhouse.
But from a practical standpoint, anyone with an interest in football loves this time of year in Indy because it’s the beginning of two very important periods of the NFL calendar: draft speculation and the free agency speculation.
Not only are the top prospects for the upcoming draft on display, but most of the NFL’s 32 general managers and head coaches will speak with reporters—in complete generalities. Their desire not to tip any of their offseason plans fuels the tireless minds who believe their favorite team can accomplish anything. To those getting ready to hunker down for more than 70 hours of football, here’s what to watch for at this year’s NFL combine (all times Eastern):
Quarterback Workouts:Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and the others who make up a hyped class of passers arrive on Wednesday, take their hospital pre-exam and x-rays and go through orientation. From there, it’s measurements and interviews on Thursday, media opportunities on Friday and finally on-field workouts Saturday.
Talk of Darnold’s less-than-perfect USC finale, Rosen’s durability, Allen’s accuracy, Jackson’s pro translatability and Mayfield’s size will dominate the early days of the combine and crescendo on Friday during their in-person media availability. Here, reporters will get a first-hand look at how their personalities—almost entirely crafted for answering banal questions from reporters and strange, technical questions from coaches—will play in front of television cameras.
NFL Network starts Saturday’s live broadcast at 9 a.m., and has three hour condensed editions that re-run at 4 p.m., 8 p.m. and 12 eastern.
HEAD COACHING/GM INTERVIEWS
While the schedule is tentative—once, then-Giants head coach Tom Coughlin walked up to the podium hours before his scheduled time and decided he just felt like going—the lineup has been posted.
Before 1 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, when NFL Network begins their live weekday broadcasts, you might have to turn to your friendly local beat writer on Twitter for live updates. The MMQB will also have a heavy presence in Indianapolis, so refresh the site frequently.
9 a.m.: New Texans GM Brian Gaine meets the press at the same time as Browns head coach Hue Jackson. Jackson did his best to evade countless quarterback questions at last year’s combine, but will need an even greater finesse this year with two top-five picks and a well-regarded lineup of QB prospects to choose from.
9:30: A live look at the duality of man—Jon Gruden and Pat Shurmur, two new coaches with wildly different backstories, speak with reporters. As evidenced by Gruden’s recent comments to S.L. Price in Sports Illustrated, his Corona-swigging, visor-wearing personality has only deepened during his lengthy spell as a television commentator. What will he be like now that it’s time to get down to business?
11:30: Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, suddenly thrust into the limelight amid rampant Kirk Cousins speculation, could theoretically unleash three starting-caliber quarterbacks onto the open market (Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford), while gobbling up the best passer to hit free agency in years.
Noon: Eagles GM Howie Roseman and Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell appear live. Both have fascinating offseasons on tap, especially Caldwell, who will break down the Blake Bortles deal.
4 p.m.:John Elway always goes late in the day and is always worth watching. With the Vikings gaining momentum in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, does Elway keep a poker face, or does he break protocol and make an under-the-radar bid for the Pro Bowl quarterback?
A thinner crowd, but a few names worth watching…
10:30 a.m.: Rams GM Les Snead will field questions on Marcus Peters even though he can’t acknowledge the trade has taken place. Set your DVR.
Noon:Pete Carroll, on the verge of a potentially disruptive offseason (see our cap casualties encyclopedia) will meet the media.
WHAT ELSE TO WATCH
• Top offensive line prospect Quenton Nelson and the rest of the hogmollies arrive Wednesday. On-field workouts on Friday.
• The defensive backs round out the action on Monday, and there are a ton of them in Indianapolis. Roughly 70 prospects will hit the field for timing, stations and skill drills a day after their Sunday media meet up.
• Saquon Barkley will meet with reporters on Thursday. The Penn State running back could make it three years straight (Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette) that a running back is selected in the top five. Barkley, who will start meeting with teams Tuesday, should have a clear picture of who is interested in his services heading into Thursday.
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