The NFL scouting combine is a chance for teams to take a deeper dive into draft prospects as football players and as people.
Teams evaluate players based on their run through a physical gauntlet that includes the 40-yard dash and a bench press routine while getting to know them on a personal level through interviews.
NFL bars teams from getting to know violent offenders
Yet the league is barring players with legal troubles in their past from participating who would otherwise be invited.
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 the report.
The battery conviction falls under a new league policy barring players from the combine “if a background check reveals a conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving violence.”
Ferguson is not the first to be banned from the combine under the rule.
Ferguson not the only player barred from combine
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.
The NFL’s reaction to these transgressions appears to be forbidding teams from spending time with these men to find out more about them and their character. It’s antithetical at best.
NFL doesn’t bar violent offenders from playing football
It’s another case of the NFL having zero clue on how to handle off-field violence perpetrated by its players — violence against women in particular.
If this is some sort of punishment for the draft prospects, it’s an ineffective one. If the talent is there, a team will draft a player with a violent past as long as the league permits violent criminals to play.
All these “punishments” practically serve are to forbid teams from getting closer to the truth on player transgressions while sending them into the draft less informed.
NFL’s achingly inept stance on violence
In terms of perception, the NFL gets to purport that it’s taking some sort of perfunctory stance against off-field violence that’s fooling only the most ardent of ignorant fans.
It’s just another example of ineptitude from a league that effectively barred teams from claiming Kareem Hunt off waivers, but tacitly decided months later that he had served his “punishment” for attacking a woman and was free to sign with the Cleveland Browns.
League likes to pretend that it cares
If the NFL wants to ban violent off-field offenders from the game, it should do so. That would clear any of these perpetual gray areas up succinctly.
But it doesn’t. The league wants to pretend it cares about off-field violence while ensuring the most talented players stay on the field almost no matter what.
And that’s why the inane combine rule exists. The league doesn’t want to do anything about off-field violence. It just wants to feed the perception that it does.
It’s shooting itself and its teams in the foot in the process.