About 800 media credentials are given out for the NFL Combine, and last year 6.5 million people watched guys run and jump and lift weights in shorts while the talking heads did their thing on TV.
Which shows just how far the draft and scouting combine and NFL offseason have come.
Many folks like to tell the story back when the Combine was just a blip in Indianapolis, when eight reporters sat in a hotel lobby and hoped to interview prospects.
Me, I like this tale from a writer who shall not be named, who started his career as a 20-something eager beaver in the early 1970s.
He covered an NFL team, and in camp he went to interview one of the team’s stars in training camp. At that time, interviews were in players’ dorm rooms.
The star was a rookie, and during the interview the star’s roommate — a fellow rookie and high draft pick — walked in and sat down.
The young whippersnapper greeted the roommate, and when he did he noticed that the player — a defensive back — only had a thumb and little finger on his right hand. The player explained he lost the other three in an accident when he was younger.
When the interview ended, the young reporter went to the team’s General Manager.
“Are you concerned about (player’s) fingers?” he asked.
“What fingers?” asked the GM.
And the reporter responded: “The ones he doesn’t have.”
Not the gentlest way to put it, no.
A couple days later, the player was released.
These days when teams go back to third-grade teachers for information, it’s impossible to imagine there was a time when a team drafted a guy without knowing he had lost his fingers.