The NFL’s first ever Veteran Combine ended last week and to call it a travesty is putting it nicely. Those who suffered through watching the event described it as more of a horror scene than a talent showcase, as several players were clearly not in their best shape.
The worst part of the event was the 40-yard dash. As we all know, speed is certainly something that diminishes as the human body ages. That was most apparent during the dash. One-by-one dreams were smashed with sub-par times.
For instance, former Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears running back Michael Bush did poorly and immediately knew of the ramifications. After learning that he just ran a 4.91 forty time, he announced, “You gotta be ****ing me. 4.91? There you go, there goes my career.”
Bush certainly was not the only one feeling this pain. Just about everyone in attendance seemed to recognize the bleak feeling of the event and the sadness that most of these athlete’s careers were over.
All in all, the NFL took in just over 2,000 applications for the Veteran Combine and accepted 105 names for the event. NFL director of football development Matt Birk described the 105 players selected as the ‘cream of the crop’ without commenting on if quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Vince Young were part of the unchosen 1,900.
Despite Birk’s kind words about the abilities of the chosen applicants, NFL teams have not reciprocated the sentiment in the days since the event. Only one player from the event has been signed. The Arizona Cardinals signed wide receiver Nathan Slaughter, making him the only person to receive benefit from the combine thus far.
Making matters even worse, the NFL charged all 2,000 applicants $400 to review their application and the 105 selected players had to find their own way to the combine in Arizona. In layman’s terms, they made these players pay for rejection.
The big question is, what did the NFL gain from charging $400 to their former employees? I’m certainly not a math major, but that is just about $800,000 the NFL made from application fees. Considering the NFL has about $10 billion in annual revenue, they could have done without the extra $800,000.
That is why this event made the NFL look really, really bad. They wanted it to be a revival event for veterans. Instead it was death sentence with a hefty fee. Worst of all, the league comes away from this looking very greedy and uncompassionate.
Most of these veterans are not rich and many of them hold normal middle-class day jobs like the rest of us. From the looks of it, the NFL extorted the diminishing dreams of these players to make a small profit at their expense. Maybe they didn’t set out for it to be this way, but it is done now and the NFL must deal with the public ramifications.
Hopefully, the NFL learns its lesson and they quickly end this failed experiment.