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NFL Scouting Combine proves football's primacy in U.S.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL's draft process has come a long way since George Halas, Jim Thorpe and a dozen luminaries conceived the American Professional Football Association (APFA) in the showroom of Ralph Hay's Hupmobile auto dealership back in 1920.

Those early pioneers sat around on the cars' running boards and sucked down beers out of buckets that hung from fenders. Thirty years later, it wasn't unusual for an owner to thumb through the pages of Street & Smith's annual football magazine for the name of an obscure college star to select in the later rounds of the draft.

Now the NFL Scouting Combine is one of the benchmarks of America's sporting calendar, consumed by millions worldwide through the NFL Network and

Attending my first combine, I immediately was struck by the peculiarity of scouts and coaches poking, prodding and ogling monstrous human specimens stripped down to their underwear.

This is the sporting version of the county-fair auction, where interested buyers set their bids on tight ends and offensive linemen rather than Farmer Joe's prized heifer.

While the College Football 24/7 crew tracks the top prospects' path to the 2014 NFL Draft, Around The League has attended press conferences for nearly 50 head coaches and general managers over the past three days.

With six months to go before the start of the 2014 season, sports writers from all over the country flock to a mid-sized Midwestern city to hang onto every word of football executives who are willing to share very little more than their plans to keep all roster-building options open.

Precious few inside trade secrets are revealed, yet fans can't get enough of the rumor and innuendo.

After the World Series concludes in October, Major League Baseball falls silent. Once the NBA Finals are over in late June, basketball goes into a coma.

As we outlined on Saturday's edition of the "Around The League Podcast," the NFL has found a way to dominate the sports news cycle three weeks after the football season culminates in the Super Bowl.

With ever-growing demand and no true offseason, there's no questioning the NFL's primacy in the American sporting landscape.

*The latest "Around The League Podcast" taped live from the NFL Scouting Combine with all the latest free agency and draft news. *

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