NFL clubs have something of a "buyer-beware" mentality when it comes to results from the NFL Scouting Combine, where elite athletes have been known to improve their draft stock to an overinflated level.
Bill Belichick has another thought: seller beware.
The New England Patriots coach suggested back in July that draft prospects do themselves something of a disservice by spending January and February training for combine events rather than doing more football-specific training.
"I think that's a huge mistake that a lot of those players make, but I'm sure they have their reasons for doing it," Belichick said, per the New England Sports Network. "We're training our players to play football, not to go through a bunch of those February drills. Yeah, our training is football intensive. We train them to get ready to play and ultimately that's what they're going to do. Maybe for some of those guys another activity in between or a pro day or whatever it is, but in the end, they're going to make their career playing football. We already know that with our guys, and we don't have to deal with any of that other stuff. We just train them for football. I think it's huge."
Belichick went on to decry the football value in combine training, and he suggested that prospects would be better served doing something else.
"I think there are a lot of players and I think a lot of players learn from that, that they look at their rookie year and feel like, 'I wasn't really as physically as well prepared as maybe I was in college or what I will be in their succeeding years in the league,' and train more for football and train less for the broad jump and three-cone drill and stuff like that. I think a lot of those guys hopefully learn that lesson and intensify their physical football training after they've had that year of, in a lot of cases, I would say non-football training or very limited training for actually football."
Belichick's argument that excellence in combine drills doesn't necessarily foretell excellence on the football field is most certainly on the mark. But as for his suggestion that prospects should be doing something else with their time in the weeks before the combine, who is he kidding? In January, most of them are just coming off a 13-game season following a bowl appearance. If they take just a week off to recuperate, they're then looking at a six-week window before the combine. It's a competitive environment to impress 32 NFL clubs and stake as much of a claim as possible to millions of dollars in rookie salaries.
For many, pro football is a short-term career that might not pay at all beyond the first contract signed. For some, excelling at the combine is the only chance to be drafted at all, much less flourish as a pro. So forgive them if they're more concerned about draft position than anything else at this time of year.
They'll be focused on football training soon enough.