NFL Combine: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

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The annual NFL pilgrimage to Indianapolis is on this week. Though people talk of change, it remains “Groundhog Day” for me.

I have personally attended 20 of these treks and participated in the annual “meat market” for perspective draft picks. As a team physician, I had about 80 players coming through to be examined each day for four days.

It doesn’t matter that Sean McVay of the Rams, Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers and other head coaches may stay away, their staff and personnel will still be there. And certainly all team medical staffs will be there in force. After all, the physicals remain the most important part of the Combine.

Many players choose to skip the workout in favor of Pro Days. For years, top QBs have deferred to the school showcases. However, no one ever skips the Combine medical evaluation. This is the only place to get the NFL physicals done.

One might ask whether a local doctor can do the physical and forward a report to requesting teams, but it just doesn’t work that way. That would be like a GM using a scouting service to decide on a first round draft pick without any team personnel evaluating him in person.

In the end, medical opinions can be as varied as scouting opinions. There can be significant or nuanced differences that change a player’s rank. The risk/injury tolerance for each team can be quite disparate as we discuss here on the ProFootballDoc OutKick podcast:

There are dozens of new restaurants and hotels in the Indy area, but everyone still makes a stop at St. Elmo’s for the shrimp cocktail. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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