Combine week is long. It's long for us media members, as many of us arrive early in the week for coach and GM interviews and stay until the last day of drills with many nights involving copious amount of alcohol consumption. But the timeline for the players is just as long, if not much longer (minus the hangovers). When we as the media get tired from the long days, we're allowed to let it show. The players aren't, and when they do let up it has a tendency to stick out like a sore thumb.
The NFL Scouting Combine is often considered the greatest and most impactful tryout these players will ever go through in their life. But people often forget that Combine week is as long as it is because it is just as much an interview as it is a tryout.
All throughout the week players are meeting with teams. The best players will have their schedules filled with formal interviews, while some of the lesser-known players will be meeting informally and more briefly. But regardless of the time frame, it's a full week for these guys. The point of all the chatter is to get to know the players. The teams have already watched the tape and done some of their background digging, but it's different when you get a guy in front of you.
Sometimes these meetings can be filled with positives, but other times it can be odd, unexpected and even bullish as teams do whatever they can to get players to put down their personality walls and get to the core of who they are. Sometimes it's not always pleasant. Just ask Florida pass rusher Jachai Polite.
"They didn't even talk football really at all," Polite said. "They just bashed me the whole time, I don't know."
The quote above came from Polite while he was at the main media podium on Saturday. The question asked of him was how his interview with the San Francisco 49ers went and that was his response.
But the 49ers weren't the only ones Polite felt like he was slighted by. To Polite, the Green Bay Packers conducted their interview similarly.
"They were part of the bashing," Polite said. "They were really trying to get to know me or see what kind of dude I was, I guess."
But it wasn't even just when the negative were brought up. Polite was asked if teams have talked to him about the good things he does in his game, such as his first step off the ball, winning with his speed or how he has a knack for forcing fumbles.
"Nah, no team brought it up (forced fumbles)," Polite said. "They're not really taking about anything good right now. They want to know all the bad things about you, like character."
"I feel like it's all how I react," Polite said. "I just act like myself, my true character, not trying to be somebody else. They want to know who they're getting."
Polite asked if he went through film in his meetings. His response was pretty on par for how he previously explained his sessions with individual teams.
"Yea, but all bad plays," Polite said.
Polite told the media he had an upcoming formal meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs, and after explaining how most of the other interviews were teams being critical of him, he was asked what he expects his meeting with the Chiefs to be like.
"I don't know what they're expecting, honestly, because a lot of teams have been bashing me," Polite said. "I don't think they're talking about me in their program. They just want to know who I am."
As for what this "bashing" is during film sessions, Polite said it was a lot of second guessing and doubting.
"Like, the why. 'Why didn't I do this or why didn't I do that. Why, why, why, why, why."
But Polite said that he doesn't mind it. He clarified that he doesn't mean it like he wants to be babied, and even said that the criticism is how you get better.
"I find it helpful because I obviously need coaching on that play," Polite said.
After a roller coaster of an interview, it seemed like Polite understood why teams were being critical of him -- he just maybe wasn't great at explaining it initially.
"They're trying to get my character out," Polite said. "They're trying to get me uncomfortable, see how I react. So they'll bash me. That's their jobs. They're about to invest millions, so I have to take [getting bashed]. That's my job."
Prospects beware: from the moment you step off the plane in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, you are in an interview, and it doesn't end until you get back on that plane -- some would argue it doesn't until draft night. It's not just about how you handle your 15 minutes in a meeting room with each NFL team. They're all watching how you handle the media, too (first round picks will continue to get media spotlight after they're drafted).
This year Polite was the scapegoat of an impolite process -- a test. NFL teams are always watching you, and announcing to the world that your interview time with them was seen as "bashing" (when in reality it was likely just some hard questions in a short job interview) isn't a great look.
Polite didn't know any better. He was trained for what to say and how to act when the doors in the rooms were closed. But make no mistake: those doors don't contain the full test these prospects go through.
Their interview for the NFL goes beyond those private rooms, and well Combine weekend.