INDIANAPOLIS – When quarterbacks take the field Saturday for workouts here at the NFL Scouting Combine, there will be a notable absence.
Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, the St. Joe’s product, will not participate after having his invitation rescinded by the NFL.
Presumably, that is for the off-the-field incidents Kelly has been involved in – although the NFL never gave his representatives an official reason.
Viewed through a Western New York lens, Kelly’s absence is the most noteworthy, but there are other examples of players being held out because of character concerns. Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is the most notable from a league-wide perspective.
“I think it’s really disappointing that Joe’s not here,” Detroit Lions General Manager Bob Quinn said. “You know, we come here to see the best college football players in college football. So there’s 330-340 some-odd players here and for him not being here because of those issues, personally I don’t think that’s real fair because we have a lot of investigation that we want to do on him. To get him in one spot for all the teams would have been great.
“I’m not part of those decisions about how guys are chosen, but I think it is a disappointment that guys like him, and there’s a few others you can put in that category, that we’re going to be chasing around in the months of March and April and it’s really unfair to the players, to be honest with you.”
In Kelly’s case, he’s rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee. By not being able to attend the combine, he’s missing out on the chance for every NFL team to get a detailed update on his progress in rehab.
Quinn’s sentiment is common among the general managers here. Los Angeles Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco, a St. Francis graduate, was asked specifically about Kelly’s absence.
“I never really felt the combine was a reward for a college player’s career,” Telesco said. “The combine to me was always, this is an evaluation event for us to see everybody that we think is an NFL prospect, and get our work done on them. We’ll get our work done one way or another. There’s a lot of players that we like that aren’t here other than Chad Kelly. There’s some players that just weren’t voted into the combine. We’ll get our work done one way or another. We’ll go by the rules that they have here. For us, it’s really an evaluation event.”
Of course, the NFL is making it something more. For the first time this year, fans can take part in the experience, with access to player drills and press conferences.
“The history of this event was initially to get medical evaluations on a large group of players in the most efficient manner we can do it. So ... not having players who were talented enough to be here, not getting medicals, presents us with a challenge,” Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin said. “So, maybe there’s only a few teams that want to get medicals on them. My guess is that there are far more than that. So from a logistical challenge to get to 20 to 25 NFL cities and have their doctors put their hands on you and either say yes or no, that’s a very important element that we’re missing with those guys. But I still believe that at the root, the root of this event is as a scouting event. I think we have to ... keep that in mind as we change it.
“I think a lot of these changes are good. It’s good for the notoriety of the league. I look around here and I see fan engagement. That’s what we’re all about. I think we should engage the fans. But the root of this event is for a scouting-evaluation purpose.”