With NFL free agency right around the corner and the 2022 NFL Combine not too far away, here are the latest news and rumors around the league from PFN National NFL Insider Aaron Wilson. Make sure to continue to check back here as we update you with the most recent NFL news and rumors on February 21, 2022.
NFL News and Rumors: NFL changes plans for Combine bubble after serious pushback from players’ agents
The NFL Combine has called an audible, ditching original plans for a bubble environment for this year’s annual audition for draft prospects.
This is expected to halt an initially planned boycott of testing and only doing medical testing and interviews by 155 players represented by 13 different sports agencies.
The league and National Football Scouting, which operates the Combine, issued a memo stating that players may now leave designated areas without consequence. Originally, they were going to be sent home from Indianapolis if they left a planned bubble of being confined to Lucas Oil Stadium and the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Memo regarding changes to NFL Combine
The memo, obtained by Pro Football Network, states:
“As promised in our message last week, we are following up to share with you an update on COVID-19 protocols for the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine,” the memo stated. “As has been the case throughout the pandemic, we continue to evolve our Combine policies and procedures in consultation with medical experts. While masks continue to be required for air travel and during medical exams at the Combine (players and medical personnel), wearing a mask at other times while on site is recommended, but not required. We encourage all players to remain within the secure Combine areas at all times for your safety. However, if you would like to leave the secure areas during free time in your schedule, you are now permitted to do so at your own risk.
“If you prefer to remain in the secure areas and have your approved medical support personnel (physical therapist, massage therapist, or approved athletic trainer) enter the secure area to provide medical treatments, please follow the previously communicated procedure and complete the form in Teamworks (if you have not already). Please let us know if you have any questions related to these COVID-19 protocol updates. We will continue to share important information with you via Teamworks as the Combine approaches. Let us know if you have any questions and we look forward to seeing you soon in Indianapolis.”
What would the boycott have entailed?
Previously, NFL agents representing 155 draft prospects from 13 separate sports agencies were poised to recommend on Monday their clients boycott the testing portion of the NFL combine due to the NFL and National Football Scouting’s intention to have a bubble environment with consequences — including dismissal from the event — for anyone who violates procedures, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
What would a boycott have involved? Not participating in testing, including the 40-yard dash and bench press, and limiting activities to the medical exams and interviews with NFL teams. The NFL made no changes, however, to having the bench press and 40-yard dash and other field testing on the same day, which has drawn criticism from agents.
“This is really bad for them to spring these restrictions on the players at the last minute,” one veteran NFL agent said before this resolution was reached. “This is unfair. People spend a ton of time and money getting ready for the Combine. This is not good, and it won’t stand. We’re taking action and are going to have our voices heard.”
Sources explain where the conflict lies
Here’s why the agents spoke out and what they took issue with as they have characterized the system as flawed under the original plan, according to sources:
- The league scheduling the bench press on the same day as the 40-yard dash and other testing at Lucas Oil Stadium, which agents feel like decreases performance levels and could potentially lead to increased injuries.
- Limiting access to trainers, physical therapists, nutrition, etc., potentially preventing draft prospects from performing at peak levels.
- The NFL profiting from the popularity of the Combine and making it a television event in prime time, without consulting the players and with several NFL teams not wanting this schedule change years ago.
- A different approach to the coronavirus pandemic than conditions at other NFL events, including the Super Bowl, which had a full stadium at SoFi Stadium to watch the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals with masks not being worn.
The players union and governing body for agents sent an email to registered agents stating its stance, obtained by Pro Football Network:
“Dear Contract Advisor, We have spoken to several agents to reinforce our long-standing opposition to the NFL Scouting Combine and agree and support the decisions by those to not attend. The combination of the NFL’s proposed ‘bubble’ and fact that we still have an antiquated system of every team doctor examining players and having them perform yet again needs serious modification or elimination. While we do not represent these players, we have advocated for their rights to fair treatment.
“Our union has always encouraged players to take control of their careers from the very beginning and we appreciate that agents are looking at ways to support that goal.”
It was a restrictive situation intended to prevent potential COVID-19 outbreaks. The memo from the league, obtained by Pro Football Network, outlines the rules, which include limited exposure to medical trainers.
“Players will be restricted to secure Combine venues during their entire time in Indianapolis for their protection,” the memo stated. “Players who violate this policy at any time will be disqualified from further participation and sent home.”
Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline previously reported that this would be the situation for NFL Draft prospects invited to attend the Combine in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Because of the restrictive nature of the rules, several agents initially advised their clients not to work out at the Combine and focus on campus Pro Day workouts.
NFL News and Rumors: Rams expected to hire Liam Coen and Greg Olson
The Los Angeles Rams are expected to hire Kentucky offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Liam Coen as their new offensive coordinator, according to league sources.
They also plan to hire Greg Olson as a senior offensive assistant and increase the role of assistant head coach/running backs coach Thomas Brown, per sources.
The Rams lost tight ends coach and passing game coordinator Wes Phillips to the Vikings as their new offensive coordinator, per sources.
Coen is a former Rams assistant quarterbacks coach from 2020. Under his tutelage, Kentucky ranked 19th in yards per play and finished 10-3 last season. A former starting quarterback at Massachusetts who threw to future New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz, Coen holds six of eight major school career passing records.
He is a former Brown quarterbacks coach, Rhode Island passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Massachusetts pass game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and Maine offensive coordinator.
Coen was hired by the Rams as assistant receivers coach in 2018 and then shifted to quarterbacks in 2020.
Texans announce coaching staff
The Texans have hired former Rice running backs coach Robbie Picazo as an offensive assistant. Picazo coached the Owls running backs the last two seasons after previously coaching the team’s quarterbacks for two years.
After starting his coaching career as a student assistant, Picazo was an assistant coach for five seasons at Stanford. Picazo played quarterback at Stanford and was retired Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s backup.
A former National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete award recipient, Picazo was the Orange County Offensive Player of the Year in high school. He set single-season records for completions and threw for 33 touchdown passes and 2,754 yards.
Picazo has a bachelor’s degree in management, science, and engineering, and he has a master’s degree in psychology.
Texans coach Lovie Smith officially announced his entire coaching staff
The Texans previously announced Pep Hamilton as offensive coordinator and retained Frank Ross as special teams coordinator.
They hired the following coaches: offensive assistant-quarterbacks Ted White, safeties coach Joe Danna, offensive line coach George Warhop, assistant offensive line coach Hal Hunter, defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire, assistant defensive line coach Kenyon Jackson, defensive assistant Dele Harding, and tight ends coach Tim Berbenich.
Additionally, Houston promoted Ben McDaniels to passing game coordinator-receivers coach. They also retained running backs coach Danny Barrett, assistant special teams coach Sean Baker, defensive assistant Ben Bolling, defensive assistant-nickels Ilir Emini, offensive assistant DeNarius McGhee, and linebackers coach Miles Smith — Lovie Smith’s son.
NFL News and Rumors: Bills hire Jaylon Finner as defensive assistant
The Buffalo Bills hired Texas A&M-Commerce safeties coach Jaylon Finner as a defensive assistant, according to a league source not authorized to speak publicly.
A former graduate assistant at Ball State and Rice University and a high school coach at Houston Episcopal, Finner played defensive back at Rice for David Bailiff.
Finner coached All-American safety Dominique Ramsey and academic All-American safety Alex Shillow at Texas A&M-Commerce. At Rice, he helped lead the 2013 Owls to their first Conference USA championship. That marked the team’s first league title in 54 years. A two-time all-district safety at Elkins High School, he played on three consecutive bowl teams at Rice.
Bills linebackers coach Bob Babich has retired, per a league source, and his son, safeties coach Bobby Babich, will take over as linebackers coach.
Saints hiring Kodi Burns
The New Orleans Saints are hiring University of Tennessee wide receivers coach Kodi Burns as their new receivers coach, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
Burns, 33, is regarded as an up-and-coming coach. He was Auburn’s co-offensive coordinator, receivers coach, and passing game coordinator from 2016-2020.
A former Auburn wide receiver who played for a national championship squad and caught a touchdown in that game, Burns has also coached at Arizona State and Middle Tennessee State.
Burns was a graduate assistant at Auburn and started his career at Arkansas State. Prior to returning to Auburn, Burns was named running backs coach at Arizona State, and he spent the 2015 season as the wide receivers coach at MTSU.
Burns served as the running backs coach at Samford in 2014. A former starting quarterback, Burns moved to wide receiver for the second half of his career and had nearly 2,300 total yards of offense and 22 career touchdowns.
As a senior, Auburn finished 14-0 and won the BCS national title in 2014 as he scored the game-opening touchdown on a 35-yard pass in a victory over Oregon. Now, Burns will join new Saints head coach Dennis Allen’s coaching staff.
As the league transitions into free agency, there will be plenty of news and rumors from around the NFL in regard to your favorite team. That includes chatter about players who will be on the move (or not) in free agency. Stay updated and keep track of Pro Football Network’s Top 50 Free Agent Rankings to better understand the free-agent market.