The NFL is expanding access for fans at its scouting combine, letting them witness the bench press up close, watch media interviews and even allowing them to try their hand at running the 40-yard dash.
The league opened the application process for free tickets to the event on its Fan Mobile Pass app and on NFL.com on Tuesday morning. A total of 6,000 non-transferable tickets will be handed out for the combine, which takes place March 2-5 at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis.
It's part of the league's larger goal to make more out of its out-of-season events.
"We wanted to continue to allow for fans to get closer to the game when there's so much hope during the offseason," said NFL senior vice president of events Peter O'Reilly.
Fans can watch the players perform for NFL personnel from the Lucas Oil Stadium stands or interact with them at the Convention Center, where players will be interviewed by the media and participate in autograph sessions.
At the Convention Center, fans can head to an area dubbed "The Combine Corner," where they will be able to run the 40 and perform other combine drills, including the vertical and broad jump. Other attractions will include an obstacle course where fans can show off their skills against tackling dummies and "The Gauntlet," where they can take on a barrage of passes thrown from a machine. Fans who take part in the events will have to sign waivers that indemnify the league should a fan suffer an injury.
For those less inclined to get physical, there's the NFL draft set, where fans can pretend they were just drafted and take a picture behind the podium wearing their team's jersey.
When brainstorming which event fans could get really close to, league executives decided the bench press, in which a player lifts 225 pounds as many times as he can, to be the best fit.
"The fans will be right there, cheering and chanting for the players," O'Reilly said.
The NFL combine, as a business, has steadily grown over the years. It was held behind closed doors until the NFL Network started broadcasting the event in 2004. Last year, the league brought in 1,500 fans to witness the event at Lucas Oil Stadium.
In April, the league brought the draft on the road to Chicago and built a huge outside space with team hubs in Grant Park, attracting more than 200,000 fans.
Fans who compete in the drills are just doing it for fun, but what happens if one runs an impressive 40?
Said O'Reilly: "I guess the scouts and GMs will be close by."
NFL to expand fan access at combine, opens ticket registration
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