With the NFL scouting combine set to begin next week in Indianapolis, a group of player agents is threatening to organize a boycott of key elements of the annual event if its concerns about a COVID-19 "bubble" for prospects are not addressed, sources told ESPN.
The NFL sent a memo last week to draft prospects and their agents outlining rules for the combine, including a bubble that would keep prospects from interacting with their personal trainers, doctors, nutritionists and agents while in Indianapolis.
A group of agents representing more than 150 of the 324 invited prospects has pushed back, saying it will hold its players out of combine drills and interviews if the league does not relent on those plans. Those players would, if the boycott is implemented, participate only in the medical evaluations at the combine. They would do their combine drills at their individual pro days instead of in Indianapolis.
As of Sunday night, agents and the NFL were discussing the concerns in an attempt to avoid the announcement of the boycott, which the agents involved were tentatively planning for Monday, according to sources close to the situation.
On Sunday, the NFLPA issued a memo to player agents in support of the idea of players skipping the combine, an event they described as "antiquated" and whose existence the union has long opposed.
Agents of incoming prospects furnish those players, at their own expense, with trainers, nutritionists and other specialists as part of their preparation for the grueling weeklong event at which they are measured, weighed, interviewed and tested on various skills. The agents have objected to recent changes that have moved some drills to prime time for TV purposes and compressed the amount of time the players have to get everything done while in Indy.
In particular, the agents oppose the idea of the bubble that would prevent players from interacting with some of the key people charged with making sure they're at their best for combine week. One source close to the situation said the nutrition aspect was among the most upsetting, since many of the prospects are trying to reach certain weights in time for the combine and that effort could be upset by the last-minute decision by the league to be the sole provider of food for prospects at the event.
Discussions were ongoing Monday morning in an effort to reach a compromise.