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Bench press will come with big audience at combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL doesn't like to rest on their laurels when it comes to the tentpole events.

It's the reason the draft left Radio City Music Hall and the explanation for how media day morphed into Super Bowl Opening Night Fueled by Gatorade featuring the X-Ambassadors. These events never get smaller. They sprawl.

We're seeing that with the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this year. Where there was once a single podium for coaches and front office executives tucked in a Lucas Oil Stadium cafeteria, there are now eight risers spread out across a convention hall. Where you once saw a gaggle of autograph seekers in the hallway, there is now a massive NFL Experience setup that covers a city block.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy captured the uncertainty that comes with change at the beginning of his Wednesday media availability.

"Hey, before I start where did the other guys put their hands at?" McCarthy said, interrupting the first question. "This is a new setup here, huh? Don't know where the hell to put my hands at."

In between the press conference risers and Experience setup is a conspicuous section of the Indiana Convention Center that best captures the fast evolution of the combine from insider-only affair to public spectacle.

That's right. For the first time, the NFL has opened up the bench press drill to the public. Fans in attendance are encouraged to be respectful of the participants, but also can be as loud as they want. The NFL should go full-Sly and reward an 18-wheeler to the kid that lifts the bar the most times. Remember readers: The world meets nobody halfway.

I can't decide if I love or hate this idea. A pump audience might be the ultimate dream scenario for the terrible meathead at your local gym, but for these prospects, the bench is part of a massively important job interview. Then again, these guys have been performing for huge crowds since they were teenagers.

A few hundred hospitable Hoosiers is unlikely to present a terrible obstacle.

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