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Combine is start of a new season

Vic Ketchman concludes his scouting combine coverage with this editorial on the combine's true meaning.


INDIANAPOLIS — A few days from now, after all of the scouts and personnel directors have returned to their teams' headquarters, the excitement for the 4.3 40s and 11-6 broad jumps and 27 reps on the bench and, of course, don't forget the three-cone drill, will wear off and the men who are responsible for their teams' futures will turn back to the all-important tapes of the games that really tell us what kind of players these kids at the scouting combine are.

Oh, nothing beats padded exposures. Yep, that's how you find out if a kid can play. What does he do when the pads go on? Will he drop them on his opponent?

Sure, the 40 time will tell you how fast the kid'll get there, but what will he do when he does, in fact, arrive? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the true essence of the game, not the gym class that was conducted at Lucas Oil Stadium this past weekend and which will conclude on Tuesday when the defensive backs work out for the scouts.

So what is the real value of all this hullabaloo in Indiana? Is it truly important stuff, or has it become a made-for-NFL-Network production?

The entertainment portion, which is to say the workouts? Yeah, that's for NFL Network. It's what NFL Network didn't show us, which is to say the medical evaluations and private interview sessions between the players and the teams that are interested in those players, that provide lasting information that will weigh heaviest on draft day.

When the idea that created the combine many years ago was launched, it was with the sole purpose of gathering the top prospects and conducting medical evaluations. That's all. A few years later, some erstwhile and ambitious scout decided that while they had the kids in one place, why not make them run a 40. Then came some jumping, then lifting and, finally, out came the cones.

What the workouts largely do is to confirm what the scouts already know. This guy is fast, that guy is not. The medical and psychological evaluations and the interviews provide all new stuff. Yeah, that's what the combine is all about.

It's about something else, too. It's about turning the page forward, which Packers General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy did so strategically on Friday. They showed their smarts. You don't dare carry last year's laurels past the combine because the combine is the unofficial start of the new season.

You can feel it in the air every year at this time. The days are getting longer and there was a hint of spring in the air in Indianapolis on Sunday. Last season is gone. As wonderful as it was, it's over and it's time to move on.

The kids at this combine, for that matter the kids at every year's combine, are the new breed of challengers for last season's holdovers. It's a rebirth, a rite of passage, a recycling of America's football talent, and coaches have long clung to time-honored axioms about such things: You never stay the same; you either get better or you're getting worse.

So, here we are at the start of a new season. Gee, the offseason went by so quickly. It seems as though it was just yesterday that the Packers won the Super Bowl.

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