The NFL has tweaked its controversial policy of banning players with violent offenses on their record from the pre-draft scouting combine — for one player, at least.
USA Today reports that former Louisiana Tech pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson will be invited to the event, but there’s a catch. He can only participate in interviews and medical evaluations. He will still be barred from participating in on-field activities like the bench press and 40-yard dash.
The NFL had previously banned Ferguson from all combine activities after a background check reportedly surfaced a violent offense on his record.
Ferguson had violent offense on his record
Ferguson, the NCAA’s all-time sack leader, was convicted of simple battery during his freshman year for a fight at a McDonald’s in addition to a separate public intoxication charge while he was in college, according to NFL Network.
The adjusted policy addresses one glaring issue with the NFL’s combine ban policy, but still leaves the problem at its core.
Teams can now talk to player they’re concerned about
What it fixes is the fact that the NFL was essentially stripping teams of the opportunity to get to know Ferguson on a personal level while citing a compelling reason for teams to want to do so. If a guy has a criminal history, personnel evaluators would surely benefit from getting to know him better. There’s zero upside to preventing that.
So now they’ll have that opportunity with Ferguson, as well as the chance to perform a medical evaluation.
“Rather than having up to 32 teams travel individually in these cases, this is actually to accommodate the clubs, to frankly get the most important information — the medical exam — in one place,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told USA Today.
The combine is a job interview, not a reward
What this policy change doesn’t address is that the NFL is treating the combine as if it’s some sort of a reward for players rather than a job interview that provides teams with necessary information to make draft decisions.
The NFL’s not barring violent offenders from playing football. It’s just making a public relations move to make it look like it’s addressing the persistent problem of off-field violence that plagues the league.
In 2017, the NFL barred running Joe Mixon from the combine after a video surfaced of a brutal assault he committed on a woman that left her with a broken jaw. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted him in the second round and signed him to a multi-million dollar deal.
Vincent acknowledged the punishment aspect when addressing the issue with teams, according to USA Today.
From the report:
Vincent recently informed clubs of the decision in a memo to general managers and head coaches, and maintained that in preventing on-field drills and testing, the players are still paying a price for off-field transgressions.
Will other violent offenders get combine interviews?
What’s not clear from the USA Today reports is if other players who have been banned are getting the same interview treatment as Ferguson.
Both of their offenses involve violence against women.
Simmons, a potential top-10 pick, was seen on video punching a woman repeatedly as she laid on a street.
Williams, a later-round prospect, was suspended in 2017 after an arrest for harassment, tampering and domestic violence involving a former girlfriend.
NFL pretending to care
If they’re not invited for the interview session like Ferguson, then the NFL is maintaining is obtuse stance.
Again, these players are not barred from playing football in the NFL. They will be drafted. Banning them from the combine serves no legitimate punitive purpose. It just makes the job harder for teams making draft decisions.
The NFL does not care about violent offenses as long as a player is good enough. It just wants you to think that it does.
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