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Posted: Monday February 22, 2010 2:17AM; Updated: Monday February 22, 2010 11:15AM
Peter King
Peter King>MONDAY MORNING QB

Observations on NFL combine, Troy Vincent, free-agent WRs and more

Story Highlights

One team's decision-maker explains why he doesn't put much stock in combine

Former union president says his new job with NFL has no bearing on labor dispute

Notes on First Sgt. McGuire, Dr. Z, Olympics, more in 10 Things I Think I Think

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Enjoy watching 325-pound guys "sprint" 40 yards? This week's NFL combine is for you.
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Two weeks after the Super Bowl, three days before the Scouting Combine, two weeks before free agency, here are four NFL observations -- including one that stunned a lot of people in the football business -- and one regarding Tiger.

The Scouting Combine is coming ... but I wish you wouldn't get very excited about it.

In my calls around the league in the last few days, I spoke to one club architect who shall remain nameless at his request. He told me his team had changed its way of doing business in the scouting realm this year, and his team's draft board is "90 percent set.''

Quoth this architect: "You know why it's 90 percent set now? Because guys go to the Scouting Combine and they change their grade on a player based on things that have nothing to do with playing football. I'm convinced if you took the stopwatches away from a lot of these guys, most of 'em would not be able to tell you whether they liked a player or not.

"These guys go out and watch players all fall, then we all watch the tape of all these guys, and we see what kind of football players they are. That's scouting. Who plays good football in pads? That's scouting. Now we need the combine for the medical evaluations and the personal baggage stuff. But don't come in after the combine and tell me you want to change some guy and move him way up because he ran faster than you thought he would. That's where you get in trouble, and that's why our draft board is pretty well set.''

If I told you who this speaker was, you'd all say, "Whoa, we have to listen to this guy. We respect him.'' Just take my word for it. He's legit.

I enjoy the combine. It gives me the chance to meet a lot of players I'll be covering in the future and to see people in the NFL and get team-by-team updates. It's valuable. But it's way overrated in terms of deciding who should get picked where in the draft, and it always will be.

***

I never saw this one coming: Troy Vincent an NFL vice president.

"Why not?'' Vincent asked innocently Saturday night, over the cell from his Virginia home.

Uhhh, well, because 11 months ago you were the leader in the clubhouse to replace the late Gene Upshaw as head of the union. It's not exactly Glenn Beck going to work for President Obama, but it's a pretty strange transition.

On Thursday, the NFL hired Vincent to be vice president for player development of active players. He succeeds Mike Haynes, another former star NFL cornerback, in trying to help players find education and work opportunities to make them more complete people -- and to ensure they won't become liabilities for the league off the field.

Vincent is the second former NFL Players Association president to be hired recently for a job with NFL ties, with former Giant George Martin taking the post of president of the NFL Alumni Association. Though the NFL Alumni Association is not a division of the league, its relationship with the league is a close one. (At the Super Bowl, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith noted the development by saying, Martin "works for the league.'') It may be a coincidence that the league has hired both men in recent months, but you can be sure some in leadership at the players association will say it's not, and that the league in ganging up to crush the NFLPA by co-opting some of its alums.

Vincent starts his job today, and he'll take his act on the road in midweek at the combine in Indianapolis, addressing the 300-plus potential draftees.

"When I knew Mike was leaving the job,'' Vincent said, "I knew it would be the perfect job for me. I knew I had the skill-set to help players succeed off the field. I know what the NFL did for me, from the continuing education it enabled me to get while a player to later on helping write the programs for [rookie] players as they came into the league. This league is good to people who are proactive in their lives, creating lots of opportunities they would normally not have. I think we can produce better men, better pros, and make the league better overall by doing it.''

I've been told the election loss stunned Vincent and sent him into a funk. But he says he harbors no bitterness. "It was simple,'' he said. "I wasn't who the players wanted. They wanted to go in a non-player direction. In an election, you're going to have a winner and a loser. De's a wonderful individual and he's hired a very good staff around him.''

Vincent says he left Hawaii after the election and that he wasn't surprised Smith never approached him about joining the PA in any capacity. He adds that he's removed himself from the process and hasn't been involved on either side of the labor dispute that could lead to a player lockout in 2011. When players call him about it, he tells them he's out. He says has no input into negotiations or feelings about them. He sounded like Switzerland every time I tried to get him to opine about the hard line stance each side has taken in the negotiations.

And he was adamant that any knowledge of the players or connection to them from his campaign to win the executive director position was not part of his interview process for this NFL job. When he talked to commissioner Roger Goodell, he said helping with the negotiation was never broached.

"I'm not involved anymore, it's not my responsibility, and I don't even think about it today,'' Vincent said. "When I'm asked about it, I don't even respond. I have no knowledge about it. There will be labor peace at some point. It's what's supposed to happen. I just don't know when. The leadership is in place on both sides to get a deal done, and doing that is not what I'm here for. I'm here to help players grow into better young men and better pros.

Vincent said Goodell is "very concerned'' about players transitioning from the field to life after football. To that end, Vincent wants to get to players early and often. He wants to hit the rookies now, at the combine, then heavily at the Rookie Symposium in June in California, then in regular team meetings.

"I want players to know that many of them are going to be 25-, 26-years-old [one day], and they're going to learn, 'This game doesn't want me anymore. I've got to do something with my life.' My job is to help them realize that football is part of their life's journey, not the entire journey.''

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