INDIANAPOLIS — After fielding questions for 60 minutes about the Dallas Cowboys aboard the team’s blue-star emblazoned bus sitting outside the Indianapolis Marriott, owner Jerry Jones couldn’t help himself.
He wasn’t done talking. He had something to get off his chest.
So he cracked open a can of Miller Lite and questioned the local Cowboys media members why they didn’t ask him about the combine, specifically his thoughts on accusations that the event is demeaning to players and a money grab for the league.
Jones made the comments months after league executive Troy Vincent shocked owners at the NFL Meetings in Dallas in December by comparing the NFL Scouting Combine to a slave auction for the way prospects are poked, prodded and scrutinized, while announcing changes to the event, including a change in medical evaluations and a focus on questions being asked to prospects in a way to eliminate some of the dehumanizing aspects.
Jones and other owners took umbrage at the time.
But he needed to respond on the record.
NFLPA Executive Demaurice Smith went on record at Super Bowl LXII that he was in favor of abolishing the combine in its entirety, saying its purpose was “for the teams to engage in intrusive employment actions that don’t exist anywhere else.”
Thus, Jones wasn’t going to be stopped from giving his own take on the situation.
Jones said the combine was beneficial to the players and owners from a financial standpoint as the CBA requires the players get their share all league funds.
He agreed that teams should refrain from asking personal, intrusive and dehumanizing questions.
“I think we should have a good agreement. And it should be one that we all feel is appropriately addressed to playing football in the interview process,” Jones said. “That interview process does represent us all. If you’ve got one guy that asked the wrong kind of question … and ask questions about their family backgrounds or things like that.”
That has happened with one of Jones’ own players back in 2010 then-Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland asked receiver Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.
Jones refused into the delve into the comparisons of the combine to slave auction, saying “I don’t think we ought to deal some of the issues we are dealing with in society.”
“But I’m for continuing to work to really make this thing appropriate,” Jones said. “I think we can make it just exactly like you would if you were interviewing for a major company or something like that and ask those kinds of questions.”
Jones called the combine a unique opportunity for NFL prospects. It’s a time when only a few “out of 75,000 players that played college football and get to come up here and be invited and talk about your your workout.”
“The only thing I would say is … if you can’t get satisfied, we all understand that you don’t get drafted as high,” Jones said. “you might get drafted in the third but not in the first. We have them now that don’t come to the combine and [then] don’t get drafted. I couldn’t say you are not going to get drafted.”
Jones said NFL is doing everything it can to make the combine better for the players.
The league no longer issues the Wonderlic test, an aptitude exam that has been criticized for being racially biased and irrelevant to the NFL.
The league changed timing of the workouts from a made-for-television night event on the NFL Network the past couple of years to a late afternoon event this season.
Player complained of having to perform his drills until 10 p.m. for prime-time audiences and being at their best because they were tired from long days.
But Jones made it clear that putting on television to satisfy the interest for the fans is in the best interest of the players and the league.
“I think it’s important that our fans get to see it the way we show it,” Jones said. “I think it’s important to the players. Players really should, in my mind, appreciate the promotion. They really should and I know it’s effective. I know it financially impacts individually, making them better.”
Because it helps creates interest in NFL, Jones believes players can maximize the buzz from the combine through their contracts in the league.
“If you really want to maximize how this could turn out for you, to me you should advantage of the opportunities that you might have,” Jones said. “That’s not anything but just business.”