Vikings, Spielman to begin vetting player character at the NFL Combine
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Anyone who has participated in a job interview knows you put your best foot forward. If there are any character issues on the other foot, it's best that be addressed with a hint of regret and a sledgehammer of change.
That analysis will be magnified tenfold starting Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine for 325 young adults that will likely undergo some of the more scrutinizing interviews of their young lives -- not without intense preparation from their respective camps.
For every general manager, including the Minnesota Vikings' Rick Spielman, today marks the start to vet draft candidates, which has become increasingly important to avoid bad publicity from arrests and the Richie Incognito's of the draft.
As the NFL world centralizes around Indianapolis for a week, Spielman also plans on talking with each of the agents for the Vikings' 15 unrestricted free agents.
"We'll have a lot of discussions [at the Combine] on guys and where they stand with our ballclub at this point," Spielman said Friday.
Offensive linemen, tight ends, punters, kickers and other special teams players report to Indianapolis on Wednesday to register, undergo medical exams, go through orientation and kickoff the interview process.
"We'll talk to almost every player at the Combine. We have a very organized system because you can bring in 60 [players] into your room, but you only get 15 minutes with them," Spielman said. "But there is what they call the convention center or train station where our position coaches and our scouts will be over there working, where if they're not in the '60 room' then we've got to get in front of them there."
With millions at stake, NFL teams don't waste any time getting to know their potential draftees. For Spielman and most GMs, the process of character vetting began in Alabama at the Senior Bowl last month.
But getting inside the minds of the players on your draft board consists of as much investigative work as it does asking the right questions.
"It's all - anything from the character standpoint or any kind of addiction standpoint or any kind of issues potentially, what I call football character," Spielman said. "What are they doing after a game? Everybody says they go home and play video games, well, you know that's not true. If they mention - and again I don't want to give all of our secrets away - but if they mention associates, guys that they potentially hang out with, do your due diligence on their associates and see what kind of people they're hanging out with. There are just a lot of different things that come up in that interview that you can really open up a lot of other avenues to go down and research.
"It's not 15 minutes and we're done with this guy. We're doing this all spring, that's why we're out at the workouts."
However, team officials have come under scrutiny for asking too pointed of questions, like when Colorado's Nick Kasa said he was asked last year: 'Do you like girls?'
Well now there's the first openly gay NFL draft prospect in Missouri defensive end Michael Sam and a GM's microscope is being regulated now more than ever. Spielman met with his coaches and scouts to discuss what they can and can't ask before they left for Indianapolis on Tuesday.
"No you can't ask [about sexual orientation, religion, etc.] Legally, you can't," Spielman said. "But there's ways you could ask questions without breaking the law also. The NFL gives you guidelines on how you can ask questions too."
The process is far from concrete, but navigating the shifting sands of the NFL offseason is all about coming away with the best players on the field that will not cause a distraction off the field. And in today's instant-information era, mental examination can be as an important part of the process as the physical evaluations that will follow later this week.
Spielman has consulted with interviewing experts, including psychiatrists, to prepare himself and Vikings' coaches and scouts to get the most out of a 15-minute sitdown with their top candidates.
Three Vikings players were arrested in November, but none of the trio were drafted by the Vikings.
"Well, I wish I could say I was perfect but I'm not on that," Spielman said. "It sure evolved from a legality standpoint. I don't know how other teams interview or their process, but we try to keep it on the cutting edge and stay ahead of the curve when we are interviewing because it's a vital part of this process."
Spielman's press conference is scheduled at 12:15 p.m. CT on Thursday from Indianapolis. First-year head coach Mike Zimmer is slated to address the media at 10:15 a.m. CT on Friday.