The Washington Times-Herald

February 28, 2013

Questions at the combine becoming too personal

Glade's Games

By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — There are regular job interviews, and then there is the NFL's version. Every February more than 100 of the best college football players in the country converge on Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

The Combine gives all 32 NFL teams an up close and personal view of the players that compose the top picks in April's draft through a series of physical drills.

The highlight of the week is the 40-yard dash and the interviews that each team schedules with specific players.

For years the questions that are asked during these de-facto job interviews have been fodder for criticism. The questions range from what kind of fast food the player prefers to what kind of animal they would wish to be.

The questions can get personal, and that is where a line should be drawn, but hasn't been yet. At the 2010 Combine, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant had the unfortunate opportunity to be interviewed by Miami Dolphins executive Jeff Ireland.

After a series of questions concerning Bryant's upbringing, Ireland dropped a mind numbing question to Bryant about his mother.

Ireland asked if Bryant's mother was a prostitute. No matter what the questioning Ireland had given Bryant up to that point, that specific question is off base no matter what. Obviously, not every interview goes this way, but this is an example of the NFL stepping over the line and nobody stopping this practice.

This year's hot topic is Manti Te'o, and his now infamous catfish story.

Te'o's story has been well documented, and he did his best to end all questions pertaining to it during a press conference on the first day of the combine. Too bad the rest of the teams didn't get the memo.

A line of questioning brought on by Te'o's situation concerning a fake dead girl friend is whether or not Te'o is heterosexual.

This question, of course, shouldn't belong anywhere near a job interview.

But, this is the NFL, where reason has no part in the discussion.

What should be of more significance for Te'o's draft stock is his disappointing finish in the 40-yard dash. The former Notre Dame linebacker finished in a pedestrian 4.82 seconds, placing him 20th of 26 linebackers at the combine, a far cry from the hype the Heisman Trophy runner-up received this past fall in South Bend.

This is another example of the sports world, especially the NFL lagging far behind a major social issue. At least one player at the combine reported being asked about his sexual preference.

The manner in which Te'o treats his social life and the relationships he holds is none of the NFL's business as long he isn't breaking any laws.

Presenting himself as a homosexual male certainly wouldn't qualify.

Te'o for all we know may not be gay at all, but given the statistics there is a high probability that numerous NFL players are currently hiding in the closet for fear of ridicule by their teammates.

Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock hypothesized this week the number is probably close to 15 percent.

To date there has not been an openly gay man play in the NFL, and I wouldn't plan on seeing that anytime soon, given the culture of an NFL and its locker room. Te'o will be drafted, and hopefully avoids the media scrutiny he's faced over the last two months.

The NFL Combine is over, but this story isn't going away anytime soon - business as usual for the NFL.