In reality, smaller, more bare-bones versions of the Indianapolis Combine are put on all over the country as street free agents work out in an attempt to get back into professional football.
The most successful of these Combine organizers is Elite Pro Football Combines , who, according to their website Combines.com has helped place 455 players into the NFL and another 1,860 players in the AFL, CFL and AF2 leagues since its inception in 1989. Among the Elite's NFL success stories are kicker Adam Vinatieri and wide receivers Wayne Chrebet and Joe Horn.
The NFL apparently liked what they saw from Elite; so much so that they bought the company, according to a letter being distributed by the league.
A copy of the letter, obtained by NFLDraftScout.com , states that the NFL has acquired Elite Pro Football Combines and explains the company's role.
Elite Pro Football Combines will supplement the NFL's National Scouting Combine and will be held in different locations across the United States. These Regional Combines are intended for draft-eligible players not invited to the NFL's National Scouting Combine, free agent players, and unsigned players with some pro experience. The goal of the Elite Pro Football Combines is to ensure that no worthy player is overlooked by providing an opportunity for a player to showcase his talents in a comprehensive NFL-style evaluation.
Elite's website lists the 2011 workout sites as Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Columbus, Atlanta again and Los Angeles from February 26 to April 9. Athletes who perform well at these regional events would get the opportunity to be tested by real NFL scouts during the Combine "re-checks" that happen in early April each year.
According to various sources inside and out of the league who had attended these workouts, the combines run by Elite Pro Football focused strictly on recording players' measureables. The medical testing and interviews so important at the Indianapolis Combine are not part of the deal in these workouts. Measuring scouts heights, weights, and recording their times in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, bench press and shuttle drills is the focus, with the information being recorded so that the professional scouts can view the results online.
Players do not have to be invited to these workouts, unlike the Indianapolis Combine. They do have to register, however, and pay an entry fee. This fee, according to sources, is typically around $160.00 with another $25-50 possibly needed for prep materials such as a DVD and workbook explaining the process and tips on what scouts are looking for.
The decision by the NFL to purchase Elite makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Certainly, the greater exposure and proximity of these workouts will churn out more talent. The Combines also offer opportunities to former or hopeful NFL scouts wanting to pick up a little extra money or get their foot in the door. Scouts hope that it will result in accurate measureables for hundreds more prospects.
Perhaps most thought-provoking is that the addition of Elite Combines puts the NFL one step closer to potentially creating a true minor league farming system similar to what is done with Major League Baseball. The idea, which many have characterized as silly at first blush, makes a lot of sense to some in the league and wasn't dismissed by sources inside and out of the NFL when I asked them for comments on this story.