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New timing method in 40 could lead to culture shock for players

by | NFLDraftScout.com

Each player at the combine runs the 40 twice, compiling six different times in the drill. (Getty Images)  
Each player at the combine runs the 40 twice, compiling six different times in the drill. (Getty Images)  

INDIANAPOLIS -- As hundreds of former college football stars participate in the NFL job fair known as the scouting combine, they will be part of a grand experiment in the most popular and most publicized event -- the 40-yard run.

In a first, the combine will use fully automated timing, meaning electronic devices will be used for both the start and the finish of each 40. But these FAT 40 times will not be revealed to players or NFL teams, The Sports Xchange has learned.

Most player workouts will be between Saturday and Monday, with some special-teams players only working out Friday.

NFL teams were briefed on the new timing method Wednesday. Because teams keep 40 times to a hundredth of a second, there has long been a push to further legitimize those times by using the same methods as track and field and the Olympics.

But according to coaches and scouts who discussed this with The Sports Xchange, the FAT times are expected to be .20 to .24 seconds slower than the relative times recorded using methods the combine has gone with since 1990 and before.

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"We were told it is just an experiment and we won't be told the results," said one team official. "People are worried about the reaction players may have if the 40 times change that much."

Combine, team and league officials are concerned that an abrupt change to recognizing the more accurate FAT times would create a culture shock of sorts for players. These players have long been told that, for skill positions such as wide receiver, cornerback and running back, a 4.30 clocking is elite, 4.40 is extremely good, 4.50 is good and 4.70 and above may be cause for concern at those positions for an NFL prospect.

As an example, the great Jerry Rice had a rather pedestrian 40 time in the mid-4.6 range. If that time were converted to equate to FAT timing, Rice, rated by many as the best wide receiver -- or the best player -- in NFL history, would be credited with only a mid-4.8 time in the 40.

So suddenly adding .20 to .24 seconds on the combine times for prospects could result in some sort of psychological shock. As it is, some of the top-rated athletes do not run at the combine. If FAT 40 times became official, it is feared even more players would refuse to run at the combine.

For the past 22 years, combine 40 times included two manual timings and one that was determined by a manual start and an electronic beam at the finish. In those cases, all starts were determined by the player's first motion. Before 1990, all times were entirely manual.

The fastest verifiable time in combine history was 4.12 seconds by Bo Jackson in 1986 on manual watches in the Superdome.

There are numerous stories that Deion Sanders ran faster than 4.2 seconds at another Superdome combine. But research indicates he was timed in 4.28 seconds at best on one of the so-called "official" watches.

Even before the inclusion of the secret FAT timings this year, there was confusion among the media and fans over so-called "official" 40 times. And the reason is simple -- there really is no single, "official" 40 time.

Here is what happens to get the 40 times at the combine that are revealed:

 Those who participate in the 40 run twice, and on each run they are timed by two hand-held stopwatches and one electronic timer (initiated by hand on the player's first movement).

 Combine data put together for NFL teams by National Scouting includes all six of those times for each player, but no single official time.

Team scouts and coaches have various approaches for reaching agreement on a 40 time they use from those six timings. Some use averages. Some throw out slowest and fastest and then average the rest. Some ignore the whole thing and use a time taken by their own scout.

But the rapid ascent of the combine as a media event has created a lot of misconceptions, especially with the addition of live coverage by NFL Network on television and NFL.com online. In recent years, in an attempt to expedite reporting of data, both NFL Network and NFL.com have published 40 times and have not cited the source of those times, except to say they are unofficial.

And this year there will be more of the same, as stated in this week's press release from NFL.com and NFL Network, which says: "For the first time ever, NFL.com provides unofficial 40-yard dash times for each participant in real time with the Combine Tracker, allowing fans to obtain results and data faster than ever before. Additionally, the new Combine Tracker lists how each athlete performed in all of the drills, providing a central location to receive statistics as they happen."

All this is great for fans viewing online or on television, as long as they understand, as the press release states, that the times are "unofficial." Most media will go with those same times until more specific data becomes available.

In deference to the players, NFLDraftScout.com uses the best verifiable -- or listed -- time from the combine unless it is conspicuously skewed from the other times. But the times are usually well grouped.

*Top scores from 2000-2011 Combines (unofficial bests also listed if verified)
Fastest 40 times, 2000-2011 Combines
**Unofficial combine record is 4.12, Bo Jackson (RB), Auburn, 1986
4.21Trindon Holliday, (WR), LSU2010
4.22Jacoby Ford, (WR), Clemson2010
4.24Chris Johnson, (RB), East Carolina2008
4.25*Darrius Heyward-Bey, (WR), Maryland2009
4.25Demarcus Van Dyke, (CB), Miami2011
4.26Jerome Mathis, (WR), Hampton2005
4.27C.J. Spiller, (RB), Clemson2010
4.27Stanford Routt, (CB), Houston2005
4.28Mike Wallace, (WR), Mississippi2009
4.29*Fabian Washington, (CB), Nebraska2005
4.29Johnny Knox, (WR), Abilene Christian2009
4.29Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, (CB), Tennessee State2008
4.30Mike Thomas, (WR), Arizona2009
4.30Darrent Williams, (CB), Oklahoma State2005
4.30Yamon Figurs, (WR), Kansas State2007
4.31Tyvon Branch, (CB), Connecticut2008
4.31Edmond Gates, (WR), Abilene Christian2011
4.31Michael Waddell, (CB), North Carolina2004
4.31Santana Moss, (WR), Miami2001
4.31Deon Butler, (WR), Penn State2009
4.31*Justin King, (CB), Penn State2008
4.31*Johnathan Joseph, (CB), South Carolina2006
4.31*Patrick Peterson, (CB), LSU2011
4.31Taylor Mays, (FS), Southern Cal2010
4.31Tiquan Underwood, (WR), Rutgers2009
Highest Vertical Jump, 2000-2011 Combines
46Gerald Sensabaugh, (FS), North Carolina2005
45 1/2Derek (Cameron) Wake, (OLB), Penn State2005
45*Donald Washington, (CB), Ohio State2009
45Chris McKenzie, (CB), Arizona State2005
45Chris Chambers, (WR), Wisconsin2001
44A.J. Jefferson, (CB), Fresno State2010
43 1/2Dustin Fox, (FS), Ohio State2005
43 1/2Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa2001
43 1/2Dorin Dickerson, (TE), Pittsburgh2010
43Cedric James, (WR), TCU2001
43Darius Butler, (CB), Connecticut2009
43Scott Starks, (CB), Wisconsin2005
43*Eric Berry, (FS), Tennessee2010
42 1/2Nate Burleson, (WR), Nevada2003
42 1/2Jonathan Carter, (WR), Troy2001
42 1/2Brock Williams, (CB), Notre Dame2001
42 1/2Jarett Dillard, (WR), Rice2009
42 1/2Virgil Green, (TE), Nevada2011
42Boss Bailey, (OLB), Georgia2003
42*Jon Baldwin, (WR), Pittsburgh2011
42Trindon Holliday, (WR), LSU2010
42Santana Moss, (WR), Miami2001
42Rashad Holman, (CB), Louisville2001
42Kerry Rhodes, (FS), Louisville2005
42*Vernon Davis, (TE), Maryland2006
Longest Broad Jump, 2000-2011 Combines
11'05"Justin Fargas, (RB), Southern Cal2003
11'05"Scott Starks, (CB), Wisconsin2005
11'04"Chris McKenzie, (CB), Arizona State2005
11'04"Terence Newman, (CB), Kansas State2003
11'04"Jerome Simpson, (WR), Coastal Carolina2008
11'03"*Donald Washington, (CB), Ohio State - 2009
11'03"Boss Bailey, (OLB), Georgia2003
11'03"*Julio Jones, (WR), Alabama2011
11'03"Hilton Alexander, (WR), Morris Brown2001
11'02"Jonathan Carter, (WR), Troy2001
11'02"Chris Chambers, (WR), Wisconsin2001
11'02"Cedric James, (WR), TCU2001
11'02"Darius Butler, (CB), Connecticut2009
11'02"Anthony Alridge, (RB), Houston2008
11'02"Carl Stewart, (FB), Auburn2008
11'02"Dekoda Watson, (OLB), Florida State2010
11'01"Pat Watkins, (FS), Florida State2006
11'01"Gerald Sensabaugh, (FS), North Carolina2005
11'01"Will Blackmon, (CB), Boston College2006
11'00"*Donte Whitner, (SS), Ohio State2006
11'00"*Andre Johnson, (WR), Miami2003
11'00"Chris Cook, (CB), Virginia2010
11'00"Andre Carter, (DE), California2001
11'00"David Bruton, (FS), Notre Dame2009
11'00"Jon Alston, (OLB), Stanford2006
Fastest 20-yd Shuttle, 2000-2011 Combines
3.73Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa2001
3.75Dunta Robinson, (CB), South Carolina2004
3.76Deion Branch, (WR), Louisville2002
3.82Carlos Rogers, (CB), Auburn2005
3.82Dante' Hall, (RB), Texas A&M2000
3.83Kevin Bentley, (OLB), Northwestern2002
3.83Jason Allen, (FS), Tennessee2006
3.83Terence Newman, (CB), Kansas State2003
3.84Justin Beriault, (FS), Ball State2005
3.84Troy Walters, (WR), Stanford2000
3.85Rashad Holman, (CB), Louisville2001
3.86Jason Hebert, (FS), Rice2002
3.87Coy Wire, (SS), Stanford2002
3.87Randy Fasani, (QB), Stanford2002
3.88Ryan Tolhurst, (WR), Richmond2002
3.88Kevin Curtis, (FS), Texas Tech2002
3.88Austin Pettis, (WR), Boise State2011
3.88Kendrick Starling, (WR), San Jose State2004
3.88Jeff Shoate, (CB), San Diego State2004
3.88Joey Thomas, (CB), Montana State2004
3.89Charles Tillman, (CB), Louisiana-Lafayette2003
3.89Niko Koutouvides, (ILB), Purdue2004
3.89Domonique Foxworth, (CB), Maryland2005
3.89Markus Curry, (CB), Michigan2005
3.90Kelvin Hayden, (CB), Illinois2005
Fastest Three-Cone drill, 2000-2011 Combines
6.34Sedrick Curry, (CB), Texas A&M2000
6.42Jeff Maehl, (WR), Oregon2011
6.44Buster Skrine, (CB), Tennessee-Chattanooga2011
6.45Scott Long, (WR), Louisville2010
6.46Dane Sanzenbacher, (WR), Ohio State2011
6.48Carlos Rogers, (CB), Auburn2005
6.48Terrance Toliver, (WR), LSU2011
6.48Rogers Beckett, (FS), Marshall2000
6.50Leon Hall, (CB), Michigan2007
6.50Cecil Shorts III, (WR), Mount Union2011
6.50Chykie Brown, (CB), Texas2011
6.51Jon McGraw, (SS), Kansas State2002
6.54Trindon Holliday, (WR), LSU2010
6.54*Anthony Gonzalez, (WR), Ohio State2007
6.55Shiloh Keo, (SS), Idaho2011
6.56Ben Taylor, (ILB), Virginia Tech2002
6.56Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa2001
6.57Harry Douglas, (WR), Louisville2008
6.58Cody Grimm, (SS), Virginia Tech2010
6.58*Patrick Peterson, (CB), LSU2011
6.59Curtis Brown, (CB), Texas2011
6.59Malcolm Jenkins, (CB), Ohio State2009
6.60Sherrod Martin, (CB), Troy2009
6.60David Bruton, (FS), Notre Dame2009
6.60Trent Gamble, (FS), Wyoming2000
Most 225 Bench Reps, 2000-2011 Combines
**Unofficial record is 51, Justin Earnest (DT), Eastern Kentucky, 1999
49Stephen Paea, (DT), Oregon State2011
45Leif Larsen, (DT), Texas-El Paso2000
45Mike Kudla, (DE), Ohio State2006
45Mitch Petrus, (OG), Arkansas2010
44Jeff Owens, (DT), Georgia2010
44Brodrick Bunkley, (DT), Florida State2006
43Scott Young, (OG), BYU2005
42Isaac Sopoaga, (DT), Hawaii2004
42Tank Tyler, (DT), North Carolina State2007
41Terna Nande, (OLB), Miami (OHIO)2006
41*Igor Olshansky, (DT), Oregon2004
40Manuel Ramirez, (OG), Texas Tech2007
40Justin Blalock, (OG), Texas2007
39Louis Vasquez, (OG), Texas Tech2009
39*Linval Joseph, (DT), East Carolina2010
38Marvin Austin, (DT), North Carolina2011
38Russell Okung, (OT), Oklahoma State2010
38Tony Pashos, (OT), Illinois2003
37Terrance Taylor, (DT), Michigan2009
37*Vernon Gholston, (DE), Ohio State2008
37Jake Long, (OT), Michigan2008
37Victor Leyva, (OG), Arizona State2001
37Moran Norris, (FB), Kansas2001
37Roberto Garza, (C), Texas AM-Kingsville2001
37*Haloti Ngata, (DT), Oregon2006

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