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I always love this night-time view of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Ed Valentine

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Ed’s excellent Indianapolis adventure: My 2023 combine trip

Here is a look at this year’s trip to Indianapolis

I have now been to the NFL Scouting Combine four times. Each trip has its inique elements, and it has become tradition for me catalog the trip with an ‘Ed’s excellent adventure’ post. Until about two weeks prior to the event, I was not at all sure I was going to attend the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. In the end, though, it is an event I don’t like to miss. Here is a look at how things went.

Monday, Feb. 27

The journey begins. When my wife dropped me off at the airport in Albany, N.Y., we had a little company:

Three-year-old brains work in interesting ways. Turns out that since my granddaughter never actually saw me get on an airplane she thought I spent the entire week at the airport. Funny!

Watching the weather forecast made me a tad nervous about flying into Indy on Monday. High wind and rain were in the forecast, and even a tornado warning. It was windy and wet in Indy when the plane arrived, and the descent was bumpy but uneventful.

I am not a night owl, and the crazed bar-hopping of many of those here for the combine is not my thing. It is, though, worthwhile to show your face out and about in the city during the week. Even if you aren’t one of those who can hang in there until 3 or 4 a.m. So, Monday night I meandered up the hill from the hotel and made the rounds to the JW Marriott and the Downtown Marriott. Bumped into Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post and Art Stapleton of The Record. Nice fellas, like working alongside and chatting with them, but I wasn’t looking for them and they weren’t looking for me. None of us found who we were really looking for.

You know what else didn’t happen? A relaxing session in the hotel hot tub, that’s what. I have arthritic hips and a perennially sore back and I was really looking forward to a nice hot tub each evening in Indy. Unfortunately, the hot tub in the hotel where I stayed was busted. There wasn’t even any water in it. Bummer! Packed the bathing suit in my overly-stuffed carry-on for nothing.

You might not be able to tell, but I swear there is a train running above parking lot. This view is from the sidewalk directly in front of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Ed Valentine

Tuesday, Feb. 28

Isn’t there anyplace to buy decent Indianapolis souvenirs in this city? As I have learned, it appears not.

A year ago, I bought Indiana t-shirts for my three grandchildren at a hole-in-the-wall souvenir stand in the Indianapolis Center Circle Mall. They weren’t great, but they were something.

In case you don’t have kids or grand kids, the little urchins GROW! The t-shirts I bought them a year ago are now useless. My mission on Tuesday, once I finished writing about Joe Schoen’s take on the negotiations with Daniel Jones, was to find them new t-shirts or sweatshirts. I did a good job on the Schoen story — I think. The shirts were another story.

I failed! Miserably.

Turns out that little hole-in-the-wall store in the very oddly constructed, somewhat desolate Center Circle Mall, is probably the only place in the city to buy anything resembling a souvenir that says Indianapolis or Indiana or Indy on it.

I went there. I looked. I realized the shirts on the rack might have been the same ones that were there a year ago. Same style. Same spot. Same old man running the store. Probably the same stuff. I passed.

So, I asked at the front desk of my hotel where else in Indianapolis a person might rustle up a souvenir for the grandkids. I was told to try the airport.

Do better, Indianapolis!

There are business travelers in the city for events year-round. I can’t be the first grandpa to go looking for a shirt to bring home. Sad that I couldn’t find a place in the city to buy a halfway decent one.

Like Monday, I strolled up the hill in the evening to see who was out and about. Bumped into Dan Duggan of The Athletic and Connor Hughes of SNY in the ‘High Velocity’ bar at the JW Marriott. Again, nice guys. Had a nice chat with Duggan. Then it was back to the room and to bed.

This is what prospect media interviews look like.
Ed Valentine

Wednesday, March 1

Well, well. It quickly became obvious Wednesday morning that combine business was picking up.

I always use the South Street entrance to the Indiana Convention Center. Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anybody. Media is supposed to use the entrance on the other side of the building. I guess I’m just a rebel.

Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III speaking to media.
Ed Valentine

The significance of that entrance is that the tunnel connecting the convention center to Lucas Oil Stadium, which is directly across the street, is right there. When I walked into the building, there were hordes of draft prospects and NFL personnel going through security or heading down the hall to the security checkpoint. They were entering the stadium to begin medical exams and team interviews. The important behind-the-scenes stuff we don’t see on NFL Network.

Recognized Giants scout Hannah Burnett (hi, Hannah!). Saw special teams coach Thomas McGaughey. Saw Davis Webb looking weird with a Denver Broncos hat on.

The real work of the combine was truly about to get underway.

Work-wise, Wednesday turned into linebacker day. Listened to Drew Sanders of Arkansas [story here], Trenton Simpson of Clemson [story here] and Jack Campbell of Iowa [story here]. All three are impressive young men.

I always try to find something extra to post while I’m at the combine, something I could never swing without being there. Wednesday, after standing in a long line, then being turned away twice because he had to go on air, I weaseled my way into a one-on-one interview with Chris Simms. Read or listen to that here if you haven’t done so already.

Speaking with Simms was another of those moments that still manage to surprise me. A year ago, when I introduced myself to Peter Schrager of NFL Network he said he knew who I was and was familiar with the work we do at Big Blue View. Same with Simms. I went to introduce myself and he stopped me and said “I know who you are.”

Sorry, but that stuff still blows me away. I don’t think of myself as a ‘personality.’ I’m just a guy who writes and talks about football for a living, and happens to do that about the Giants. I am a small fish in a massive pond. I still get surprised bigger fish — especially national ones — know me and my work.

There is one person I have had an online working relationship with for several years, but had never actually been able to meet in person. Until Wednesday night. That finally happened Wednesday night in a dark, dimly-lit upstairs room at St. Elmo’s steak house. So, 1 for 3 on my night-time excursions.

I looked forward all week to my first opportunity to watch player workouts in person. I was disappointed by what I saw, or didn’t see.
Ed Valentine

Thursday, March 2

Workouts! Television viewers consider this Day 1 of the combine. I landed in Indianapolis Monday evening and have been working on combine stories the entire time, so to me this was Day 4.

This is my fourth time covering the combine. It is the first time in those four years that media — except for a select few who have been allowed inside Lucas Oil Stadium each year to watch quarterback workouts — was allowed en masse to attend workouts.

This was not the stuff dreams are made of.

Players and team representatives get to go through the underground tunnel that crosses the street from the convention center to the stadium. Media? Nah! We got to go outside, cross the street and walk pretty much all the way around the stadium to find the designated entrance that had been set aside for us.

There were fans in attendance, but most of the stadium looked like the photo below.
Ed Valentine
Ed Valentine

Then, we basically got to walk most of the way back around the stadium to the one designated seating section where we were herded like sheep.

After all that, we got to watch players run and jump in shorts.

And you know what? Combine workouts are BORING in person. Really, really, really BORING.

Now, if you are one of the NFL teams I get the value of watching how these guys move and seeing the numbers they put up. If you have the scouting chops of guys like Nick Falato or Chris Pflum, I get why you might lick your chops at the opportunity to sit inside Lucas Oil and watch.

Me? I was bored out of my mind. After taking some pictures and watching for maybe 45 minutes I couldn’t wait to leave. So, I did.

Honestly, the experience of watching workouts is better on television. In person, you don’t get the context. You are far away. You get none of the on-field sound or player discussion you get while watching via NFL Network. You aren’t really sure who you are watching and unless NFL Network happens to be dialed in right then so you can catch the results on the big screen you really don’t know for sure whether what you just saw was good or bad.

I love football. I love covering football. I enjoy the games. Sometimes, even the practices. I really enjoy and appreciate getting to know the people.

What I saw Thursday inside Lucas Oil Stadium wasn’t football. And, at least for me, was not enjoyable.

Inside the convention center on my way to the workouts I did bump into former New York Jets and Miami Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum. He was — smartly — heading away from the stadium.

I have talked to Tannenbaum several times for the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. Whether you appreciate Tannenbaum’s opinions or not, I find that it is always valuable to get the perspective of people who have worked inside the league, who have had to make major NFL personnel decisions or at least have knowledge of the process, and who have more knowledge and connections that I do.

It was nice to meet Tannennbaum in person. Hopefully, that helps BBV down the line.

Friday, March 3

Time to head home!

It really would have been beneficial to stay Friday. Wide receiver and tight ends spoke to media, and considering that the Giants will likely be looking to add in those spots it would have been nice to see some of those players up close and hear them answer questions.

Unfortunately, getting a direct flight to Indianapolis from Albany is next to impossible. That meant there was no way I was going to be able to leave Tuesday morning and make Joe Schoen’s 1:30 media availability. So, I arrived on Monday.

This was a miserable morning in Indy. Rainy and raw — rain that would turn to 3 inches of snow Friday night when I arrived home. I did at least manage to snag shirts for the grand kids, and one for my wife, before getting on the plane to leave Indianapolis.

Snow or not, it is always nice to be home.

In the end, I always feel like the Indy trip is worthwhile. I get up-close contact with prospects, and get to meet and talk with people who otherwise would just be faces on my TV or names in my messages. I also always leave the city feeling like I could have done more.

I guess there is always next year. Provided I don’t retire first.

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