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MT5: NFL Scouting Combine marks start of 2023-24 league year, still serves important function

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy

2023 NFL Scouting Combine
2023 NFL Scouting Combine

On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at:

With the Super Bowl behind us, all teams in the NFL are now 0-0 and it is time to focus on the next season. The first major event of the next year is the NFL Scouting Combine. The combine has been in the news a lot recently with people criticizing some of the events that take place there, others questioning the need for the combine, while the league is considering moving it from city to city as it does the Super Bowl.

The combine started in 1982 in Tampa. Prior to that, each team was flying all over the country (and flying potential draftees into their cities) to gather information on college players. The combine allowed the NFL teams to centralize the evaluation process. It moved around for a few years before settling in Indianapolis in 1987. It's been there ever since (36 years) because downtown Indianapolis is perfectly designed for events like the combine, with everything within walking distance (and medical facilities centrally located).

Both NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent and NFLPA executive director De Smith were recently critical of the combine, with Smith questioning the need for it given the information that is already available on the players. Matt LaFleur recently joined a number of head coaches in deciding not to attend the combine. He said that he and his coaches were better off spending this time at the facility getting ready for the upcoming season.

Meanwhile, the NFL is considering taking the combine on the road. The league has committed to holding the combine in Indianapolis through 2024 and is looking at Dallas, Los Angeles and Indianapolis as possibilities after that.

In my mind, the combine is still an important tool in getting ready for the draft. It's great to have all the players there, and the meetings with the players are especially helpful. It is also helpful to see how the players perform in a number of the drills. In recent years, the league has made some changes to ensure that the players are being treated well. It is also an opportunity for clubs to meet with the agents of current players on their teams.

While I realize that the combine has become a popular media event, I do not think moving it around like the Super Bowl makes sense. I imagine that the traffic in Los Angeles and Dallas would make for a much different combine than in Indy – you would spend a lot of your time in a car waiting for traffic to clear out. I know that 36 years can make us creatures of habit, but the combine has also worked very well.

Now on to your questions.

Chad from Tarpon Springs, FL

When watching documentaries of old NFL players, the game used to promote violence. Especially in the 1950s and earlier, even up to the 1990s. You won by hurting the opponent, literally. Though as Vic once said, "Violence exchanged voluntarily is noble." Anyways, the point is, is there an existential crisis for the NFL and football at large? I would say yes. But I'm not in the league office like you are. I do not have Roger Goodell's number on my cell phone.

You make a great point, Chad. The league has definitely changed its tune when it comes to hard hitting and violence. I remember when I was playing, one year the league's promotion was "Feel the Power," and it included several bone-crunching hits. With all the concerns about the safety of the game (particularly as it relates to concussions), the league could no longer promote violence. Over the past decade, the league has put a huge emphasis on making the game safer. There have been many safety-related rule changes. I do not think there is an existential crisis for the league and football in general. We are well past that, and the game is safer now at all levels. The focus now is on the skill and speed of the players, with a huge emphasis on quarterbacks (who have benefitted from several safety-related rule changes).

Tim from Hudson, WI.

First of all, I am a huge supporter of the Packers and appreciate the franchise that "we" own. I am a green package ticketholder and just saw the ticket prices increase for 2023. I have no problem with the pricing, but my question is: Why is the price per ticket for the gold package $139, when I'm paying $148 a ticket for the exact same seat? Seems as if the pricing is leaving money on the table. Thanks for your time.

Thanks for raising this issue, and respectfully so, Tim. The core issue here is that our regular and preseason tickets (preseason tickets are significantly less) are priced differently, and that the gold package has two regular-season games and one preseason game, and the green package has six regular-season games and one preseason game.

John from Milwaukee.

I read that the NFL is considering banning the hip-drop tackle. What the heck is a hip-drop tackle?

Great question, John. I also had not heard of the term "hip-drop tackle" until recently. The hip-drop tackle technique involves a defender holding onto the hips or upper body of the ball carrier and lifting his own legs off the ground, dropping his body weight onto the ball carrier's legs or feet. The hip-drop tackle is a rugby term and can be a very dangerous play in rugby and football. It has been banned in rugby. The motion is similar to a horse-collar tackle, but the swinging of the legs of the tackler into the legs of the ball carrier is an added safety concern. Patrick Mahomes and Tony Pollard both suffered injuries due to this tackling technique this year. This will be a topic of discussion at our league meeting in March. While we are all for making the game safer, I see some issues with the proposal to ban this technique. I believe the tackle often happens unintentionally when the tackler grabs for anything he can while the runner is about to get away from him. I know there are times when the tackler intentionally swings his legs into the runner, but can the officials determine intent? I think it would be very challenging for officials to properly officiate this call.

Patrick from Murfreesboro, TN.

What do you think of the rugby-style push plays? Seems to me that it creates too much advantage for the offense, is boring to watch, and is a recipe for eventual injuries. Will the NFL rules committee address this issue?

Have you been reading my emails, Patrick? I raised this issue with the league regarding potential rule changes. I agree completely with your assessment of the play. Also, more and more teams are using it. The Eagles probably use it more than any other team, and it looked to me like it was almost automatic. Last year, teams picked up first downs 90% of the time with this play. In addition, Sean Payton said he would regularly use the play on third- and fourth-and-1. I hope the play is banned. One thought would be to prohibit pushing the runner (usually the QB on a QB sneak) between the tackles. There used to be a rule prohibiting aiding the runner, but it was too hard for the officials to officiate – so now you can push the runner but can't pull the runner.

Terry from Rothschild, WI

I always enjoyed getting autographs on the Tailgate Tour, donating many of them to my church benefit auction. Why no autographs on the 2023 tour?

There are a couple issues involved here, Terry. First, we found that many of the people getting autographs on the Tailgate Tours were collectors, who were looking to make money by selling the autographs, not to donate them to church benefit auctions like you. Also, we found that the signings were taking two hours or more. We didn't think this was the best use of our players' and alumni's time. Now, we have them sign a number of footballs while on the bus and we give the footballs to the charitable organization at each tailgate stop. This allows us to have more time for Q&As with our players and alumni.

Additionally, Terry, our community outreach team has a program through which it donates items to eligible organizations for use in benefit auctions or raffles. I suggest your church apply for a donated item through our online portal.

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