MAQB: The Cost of Extended Training for NFL Combine; How Hard Knocks Will Look This Season – Sports Illustrated

Real football practices get started this week. Let’s go …


Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports; Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports; Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

• To me, part of the issue opt-out guys face is purely financial. Normally, it’d cost an agent upwards around $30,000 to get a player housed, fed and trained in the eight weeks leading into the scouting combine—a cost that’s gone up over the years and become increasingly vital to any player’s pre-draft process. Now, rather than eight weeks, we’re talking seven months. So I decided to turn over some rocks on this Monday, and called Pete Bommarito, who owns Bommarito Performance Systems in South Florida, as part of that.

He’s been training athletes for the combine since 2000, and doing it through his own company since 2005. And as such, the last couple weeks have been crazy for him as kids have explored opting out of their college seasons (Miami DE Gregory Rousseau told us in this morning’s MMQB that he’ll be working out there going forward).

“We’ve already started our draft prep,” Bommarito said this afternoon. “It’s very simple, we’ve got a number of NFL free agents working, we had four going at a time last week. And with the draft prep guys, we’ll just run them with those guys. We’ve been prepared for something like this.”

So how does it work? Bommarito’s plans for the players are intricate but the idea on this is pretty simple. The opt-outs would go into training with the free agents, working half-days three days a week, and full days two days a week, from now until Christmas. After that, they’d move into the normal draft prep, leading into All-Star games and the combine (their days at that point can last 10-12 hours).

As for the cost, Bommarito says that of the aforementioned $30,000, training a player for two months for the combine runs around $15,000-$16,000. In this case, Bommarito said, the standard for training, given the slower ramp-up and longer duration, would cost around $5,000 per month. That, of course, is before you get to housing, a rental car and stipend, which are generally a part of the package agents offer players.

Bottom line: This will get costly for agents, and might not be cost-effective once you get beyond the elite kids.

Also worth mentioning: A lot of trainers are courting agents, the same agents who have been in the ears of college players the last few weeks. XPE Sports sent a plan to agents that broke its program into General Prep/Foundational Movement (Oct. 5-Nov. 13), Speed/Position training (Nov. 30-Dec. 22) ahead of combine prep, with breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas worked in. EXOS gave agents an even more detailed plan (that one’s below), with four periods (Sept. 7-Oct. 2, Oct. 5-30, Nov. 2-21, Nov. 30-Dec.) before combine prep.


Courtesy of EXOS

Clearly, a lot of people were ready for this.

• Had a good talk on Monday with NFL Films supervising producer Ken Rodgers, as he worked through tomorrow night’s premiere of Hard Knocks: Los Angeles, which will be a very different Hard Knocks than what you’re used to. For one, it’ll feature two teams. And obviously, the circumstances under which it’ll be staged are very different.

“Practices look different, the locker rooms are different, how they arrive to camp, the testing, everything’s different,” said Rodgers. “We’ve got the video and a look inside that’s deeper than anyone’s seen. There’ll be more intimacy than anyone’s seen inside a COVID-safe environment in any workplace in America. It’s really not just a story of the Chargers or the Rams, this is a story of an American workplace trying to get back to productivity.

“To me, it’s a document of its time.”

Of course, there are also limits. Rodgers said in a normal year, a crew of around 45 NFL Films folks would flood the Hard Knocks site. This year after negotiations with the league and NFLPA, the limit is 13 and those 13 have to stay six feet away from players and coaches at all times, which, says Rodgers, “is completely different for us.” That’s meant, for example, longer lenses and the elimination of wide lenses.

And it will mean a different show than you’re used to. How? Well, we got to that with our questions for Rodgers. Here’s more: 

MMQB: How will tomorrow look different for the viewer?

Rodgers: I don’t think the product will look that different. Our focus has been to keep quality just as high. I do think the camps look extremely different. So the process looks different, if not the product. Everything at these two camps looks different this year.… It is fascinating to see how these two teams are dealing with it on a day-to-day basis. Everything is different in terms of what you’re gonna see, but I think the filmmaking, to our crew’s credit, has changed technologically, you’ll see a lot more Zoom meetings, robotic camera footage, rather than actual camera operators, but the actual quality is the same.

MMQB: So you have the same number of robo cams (12) in each facility, but are you using those more than normal because of the limits?

KR: I’d say probably the same. The addition is the Zoom meetings that we are a part of, we’re recording those. They’re actually having less meetings in the robo-filmed rooms than usual. So yes, we’re actually using them more, but they’re having less of them, so it evens out. Then in addition to that, we’re filming all these Zoom meetings, so the net gain is humongous. Between robos and Zooms, we’re leaning much more heavily on robotic-operated or Zoom-operated cameras than human-operated cameras.

MMQB: Do you guys feel pressure, given the historic nature of this?

KR: I do feel a sense of history being captured. I can sense NFL Films producers of future years watching this footage as we’re capturing it, because I experienced the same thing as a young producer watching the footage of the 1970s that was captured before I was born. I can imagine future generations of NFL Films producers who didn’t live through this crazy, upside-down football season, and this crazy upside-down year in America not really understanding what it was like. And feeling a little bit of retrospective pride that we captured it the right way, and as fully as we are capturing it.

MMQB: Has this made the relationship with the teams more vital to getting it done?

KR: Not at this point. I gotta be honest, it took trust on behalf of the players union and the teams at the beginning of the process, that we were gonna go about our business the same way the players were. So we are undergoing testing every day, we’re wearing the tracing bracelets just like the players are, we are not going out to dinner, we’re not having guests visit, our crew’s not hanging out together in hotel rooms. We’re undergoing the same protocols the players are, and once they understood that, the trust level was there. That was what was required to gain that trust.

• Interesting to see the Patriots sign ex-Texans RB Lamar Miller. There was some concern in Houston that the torn ACL he suffered last August would rob him of some of his explosiveness at 29 years old. But the sense I’ve gotten is that Houston didn’t believe he was shot pre-injury, and people there think he can still be a quality depth option for a good team. That said, it’s tough for New England to have to go this well having spent first- and third-round picks (Sony Michel, Damien Harris) on the position over the last two years, while also having vets James White and Rex Burkhead on the roster.

• This today from Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, on the season ahead for his college scouts: “As far as our scouting staff goes I think we’re kind of prepared on a number of different fronts to attack this. But I think we have to be very flexible, too, because things will change and we’re going to prepare. There’s going to be a draft, we’re going to have to acquire players, so we’re just going to have to do it a few different ways.” 

One very common refrain I’ve heard from people on that side of the business the last month is that teams with well-connected scouts are going to be at a huge advantage this fall. And that makes sense. With school visits unlikely to be allowed even if there is a college season, a scout’s ability to get people on the phone and get reliable information will be paramount. Which honestly is sort of like how journalism has been the last few months. Your Rolodex is always important, and even more so now.

• I’d say ex-Patriot/ex-Titan CB Logan Ryan overplayed his hand a little in the spring, in holding firm on his expectation of getting into eight figures for 2020. That said, if I’m a team that needs secondary help now, Ryan makes a ton of sense. He’s a great team guy and brings corner/safety flexibility, not to mention a ton of big-game experience.

• One fun leftover from my conversation with Joey Bosa (as seen in MMQB)—I did ask if he thought about how his payday may have helped his brother Nick financially. “Oh yeah, and I think he’s gonna far surpass it when the time comes because that’s the kind of player that he is, and not only him but every great young d-end that comes into the league now is gonna have a bar to get to and to surpass,” Bosa said. “I’m sure it’s gonna be passed up pretty soon here. But just to do that for my brother, I mean, I can’t say enough about the player he is and the person he is, how hard he works. He’s gonna deserve every single penny he gets.” And as for how he got word over to Nick, here’s that story: “He was playing his video games, so he had to run the headset on, headset off, and he was looking at me with this face. Like, ho-lee s—. But we were all waiting on it, and he couldn’t have been happier. Calling everybody and seeing the giant smiles they had on their faces, for me, it just means more than any dollar amount. And I think in his head, he’s thinking, ‘Oh, what am I gonna get?’” Health-permitting, Nick Bosa will get a lot.

• This tweet from Joe Burrow was the one for me …

He’s overstating it a little, but I can look back at my notes from last summer and see that he was seen as no better than a third- or fourth-round pick going into the 2019 season. So if he hadn’t had the 2019 season, that’s what he would’ve been. Or he’d have had to try and get a sixth year of eligibility. Either way, that’s a pretty good window into some of the collateral damage if the college season is called off.

• Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley told the Baltimore media Monday that his contract situation is “not really in the forefront of my mind.” But it should be for the Ravens, who’ve helped develop Stanley into a top-five player at his position, and an essential piece of Lamar Jackson’s supporting cast. His draft classmate Laremy Tunsil got $22 million per year. It’s fair to think Stanley’s worth that much, too.

• We gave you the updated numbers on COVID-19 lists in the MMQB, and Monday was another good day in that regard. League-wide, one player went on the list (Titans LB Josh Smith) and one came off of it (Vikings LB Cameron Smith). Overall, that’s a good day.

• If Derrius Guice did what he’s alleged to have done, his NFL career should be over. The details, if you haven’t seen them, are horrible.

• Question or comment? Email us.