The combine question

INDIANAPOLIS – The annual NFL scouting combine opens Thursday with NFL coaches and scouts wishing they'll have a bevy of great players to choose in the April draft.

Over the next several days, expect those same coaches and scouts simply to hope that some players work out.

Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn is the most prominent player likely to pass on his workout at the combine, which starts Thursday and runs through Tuesday. Several other top players, such as Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, are expected to do at least some of the regimen.

Johnson is waffling the most among those players, but he still is expected to do everything except run the 40-yard dash. He prefers to run the 40 at Georgia Tech's annual pro day for its draft-eligible players.

Likewise, Peterson is expected to do everything but the bench press drill. Russell, who may have one of the best arms seen in recent history, is expected only to throw during his workout.

If all of that comes true, this could be one of the more productive combine sessions in years. A frustrating trend for the NFL is that so many top players don't work out. This year, more than 300 players are expected to participate.

"It's like we always tell them, 'If you come here and don't run well or perform well, we're still going to come see you at the individual workout,' " Tennessee Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. "There's a lot more to this than just one workout."

However, players and agents have been fearful that a bad workout at the combine can seriously harm a player's draft status.

Aside from that annual battle, there are many other issues in play:

  • Agents and team executives are expected to hold numerous private meetings to help sort out free agency, which begins March 2. While such talk is technically considered tampering, the NFL has looked the other way at the process over the years and teams rarely have complained about it.

  • NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw is expected to push for rules preventing agents from talking with college players until those players either have become seniors or declared for the NFL draft after their junior season.

Upshaw spent Wednesday meeting with a group of agents on the subject. He will address a significantly larger group of agents Friday.

"The reaction to it was about 50-50," Upshaw said of the smaller group of agents. "The biggest concern for them is making sure we can get control of the other people involved with the college players, like the financial advisors and the marketing agents."

The NFLPA currently has no jurisdiction over advisors or marketing agents.

  • The NFL will continue to resolve issues about ultimately letting fans and the media watch the combine workouts. Three years ago, the NFL Network began televising the workouts, and the popularity of the event has grown. Next year, the NFL is expected to open the combine to fans to view live at the RCA Dome.