ProFootballDoc: NFL Combine In A Bubble Doesn't Make Sense

The NFL Combine is under fire as almost half of the 320 or so prospects are threatening a boycott.

The Combines are the long-time evaluation forum for NFL draft picks. This year, Combine prospects are outraged because of a last-minute announcement of a COVID "bubble".

The Combine bubble does not make sense. I get wanting to be cautious about a large gathering of people from across the country, but this is not going to prevent coronavirus spread. Forget the fact that 70K people gathered from all over to watch the Super Bowl in person, essentially without masks. This decision does not meet the key principles of a bubble.

The principles of a bubble require entry testing and entry quarantine as keys. Remember the care the NBA took to establish their bubble in 2020? We don't see that for the Combines in Indianapolis. There is an announcement of a bubble, but the players will not be in a true bubble and will still mingle with team doctors and executives.

The success of a bubble is to establish a disease-free zone and to maintain separation from the outside world. But athletes at the Combines, though artificially sequestered, will still be interviewed in person by team officials and mingle with team doctors during examinations. The classic principles of a bubble including entry testing and quarantine do not seem to be followed.

This decision seems reactionary rather than carefully considered, and players' agents are speaking out, as is the NFL Players Association.

Do not blame the NFL, which has acted prudently the last two seasons. The Scouting Combines are an independent effort run outside the league, even though all 32 team participate on a voluntary basis. The NFL has been nimble on their feet and adapted with the science, but those in charge of the Combine do not seem so flexible.

In the end, very little will change. The players have always wanted to do their workouts at the ProDay at their own school and on their own terms. The only unique part of the Combines is the medical exams, and even the "boycotting" players will comply with those.

Even though the bubble doesn't make sense as it will not be a true "bubble," this all seems to be a maneuver to normalize skipping the mass workouts in favor of college team ProDays while still maintaining the most important medical portion.

Written by
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.