Interviews and individual workouts may get more attention, but the behind-the-scenes work of the teams' medical staffs might produce the most important information at the Scouting Combine
If NFL general managers could see the future, there would be no first-round draft busts.
But busts happen, of course, and probably always will. There may be no way to avoid them, on a full-league scale. On a team-by-team basis, however, every organization in the NFL does everything it can to steer clear of that pitfall.
That means teams do try, in fact, to peer into the future. At the NFL Scouting Combine, which concludes on Monday, that means intense physical scrutiny of every player by 31 medical staffs. Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian, in fact, called medical information the 'greatest benefit' of the combine in an interview with NFL.com's Vic Carucci.
The Bucs apparently agree. Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli, just back from the combine himself, described a grueling weekend in which Tampa Bay's medical contingent did a thorough examination of, remarkably, each of the 329 players who attended the combine in Indianapolis.
"I don't know if it's the most important part of it, but it might be," Toriscelli conceded. "It's the only opportunity you have to actually put your hands on these guys. The scouts, for instance, can time a guy at the combine but could also go on campus to time them. We had just one chance to look at these guys.
"You have to realize that each player has a physical exam - rigorous physical exam – by every team in the league. That seems crazy, it really does, but everybody wants their own physicians to look at these guys. There's a lot to be invested, so it's understandable."
That, in part, is why the Scouting Combine isn't necessarily the favorite weekend of the draft-eligible crowd. It is certainly better than scheduling hundreds of private workouts across the country throughout the spring, and it is most definitely an opportunity for a player to prove his worth to the entire league, but it is still sometimes unflatteringly referred to as a 'Meat Market.'
"I think they feel that way some times," Toriscelli said in commiseration. "I've even talked to a few players about it. It's just such a grind for them, especially the players from the West Coast who get there late in the evening. They have to get up extremely early, in terms of their bodies' clocks, then go through an entire day of not only physical testing but mental testing, interviews, physicals."
Even if it's not designed as such, that schedule is sort of a mini-test of durability, and that, on the larger scale, is the key issue on the mind of Toriscelli and the rest of the Bucs' medical staff. Team physicians such as Dr. John Zvijac and Dr. Joe Diaco conduct the in-depth physicals and use X-rays and other examinations to determine a player's current medical status. Meanwhile, Toriscelli and his assistants talk to the players and get a better feel for their full medical history.
"The whole purpose is to try to predict their durability - get their current health status and then predict their durability for the future," said Toriscelli. "The medical staffs are not in any way involved with the decisions on who we take (in the draft). All we do is supply medical information to our general manager and head coach and let them decide."
That is critical information, however, and it is displayed prominently on the summary magnet that represents every player on the draft board in the Bucs' war room. Obviously, a poorly understood medical situation on a drafted player could be one path to that dreaded bust. Toriscelli will now use the coming days to prepare a written report on each of those 329 players for General Manager Rich McKay.
"We look at everything and then assign a medical grade to each player, which every team does," said Toriscelli. "Every team has a different grading system, but that's the bottom line, medically, at the combine, to assign a grade. That grade is basically a measure of durability."
And it's one of the most important things – or 329 of the most important things – the Bucs will take away from their long weekend in Indy.
BEST OF THE BAY II
Buccaneers.com is on a roll.
For the second time in two tries, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' official web site was judged to be the best example of interactive media of the year by the Tampa Bay Advertising Federation.
Each winter, the Federation holds its awards ceremony to recognize creative excellence in advertising and related fields. Hundreds of pieces of work are entered in each category (such as sales promotion, direct marketing, television) and three levels of awards are distributed. First, Gold and Silver 'Addy' nods are awarded to one or two entrants in various subcategories. Then, one entrant is chosen as 'Best of the Bay' for the entire category.
For the second time in just two years of existence, Buccaneers.com was judged to be Best of the Bay in the category of interactive media. The site, which was entered into the contest by original designers Site Dynamics, also received a Gold Addy in the subcategory of World Wide Web – Business to Consumer.
Entries in each category are judged by a panel of high-ranking advertising executives brought in from out of town to apply an extensive but subjective scoring system. By winning the approval of this panel, Buccaneers.com will now be eligible for a District 4 award (Florida and the Caribbean) and, potentially, a national award later in the year.
DRAFT DAY DASH
On day one of the 2001 NFL Draft, high-profile college hopefuls sit on couches in living rooms around the country, glued to their televisions as they await each pick. Rabid NFL fans, for whom draft weekend has become the most important rite of spring, will do the same.
But not everybody will be stuck to the sofa that day. The Buccaneers are seeing to that.
April 21, the first of two long days of the draft, is also the date of the first Draft Day Dash, a 5K race sponsored and organized by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Buccaneer fans and running enthusiasts will thrill to the race's course, which begins outside Raymond James Stadium and proceeds through nearby Al Lopez Park. As runners reach the finish line, they will dash through a stadium tunnel and onto the Bucs' football field.
Actually, the Draft Day Dash, which begins at 9:00 a.m. is much more than just a race. At the conclusion of the running, all entrants are invited to stick around for a Post-Race Party, which will feature prize drawings, music, food, drink and massage therapists.
For more information, and an opportunity to register for the race on-line, please click here.