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NFL COMBINE Changes in process planned for prospects



Published: Fri, February 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



College players and pro hopefuls will follow an interviewing schedule.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Bill Polian remembers the time Ryan Leaf missed his scheduled interview with the Indianapolis Colts. The explanation: Another team had corralled Leaf at the 1998 NFL scouting combine.

Now it appears the league might have a solution to prevent similar conflicts.

When players begin arriving for this week's combine, they will be handed a list of interviews and meeting times, a change in the process that is intended to prevent the kinds of missteps that often go unnoticed by college prospects.

"It was becoming unwieldy, and ridiculously so," said Polian, the Colts' president. "As a result, we had to get a handle on how to do the interviews in a more reasonable, organized fashion."

Major changes

The result will be some major changes to a process that still goes on primarily behind closed doors but can be one of the most critical components in evaluating college talent.

The usual five-day format has been extended to seven days in an effort to provide more thorough medical checks, which many coaches and general managers consider the most significant part of the event annually held in Indianapolis.

The league also has taken the most invisible part of the process -- the interviews -- and attempted to provide a more rigid structure. For the first time, teams will be limited to 60 player interviews, and they're to be scheduled ahead of time.

The change is fine with Polian, who said he talks to only about 40 to 50 players anyway.

Players, too, have plenty on their plates.

Medical checks

They undergo a range of medical checks and sometimes are forced to go to area hospitals for further examinations. There is the array of workouts, which include weightlifting, and speed and agility tests. And, of course, there are the interviews.

Players have contended in the past that the long hours force them to stay up too late, even when they're expecting a 6 a.m. wake-up call to prepare for workouts. The lack of sleep has been cited by several players as a reason they choose not to work out.

But few expect the league-imposed changes to have much bearing on whether players run, throw or lift this week.

Agent Tom Condon, who represents Colts quarterback Peyton Manning -- the player Polian chose instead of Leaf in 1998, said he expected to have about 20 clients at the combine. Only about 330 are invited.

Condon said he would advise his players as he always does: Work out if you're healthy. If not, wait until your individual workout.




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