Indy Combine: Does Caleb skipping medicals impact tradability?

Mar 1, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (QB14) talks to the media during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 1, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (QB14) talks to the media during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

By Frank Cooney,

INDIANAPOLIS — In his 2024 NFL Combine public debut here Friday morning (March 1), Caleb Williams spoke. The great USC quarterback, considered by most to be the No. 1 pick in next month's draft, explained why he won't work out or even go through medicals here.

His rationale, especially for not undergoing medicals, added to a series of actions and comments that seem a bit shortsighted for the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner.  

"I’ll be doing the medical stuff, just not here in Indy." Williams said. "I’ll be doing them at the team interviews. Not 32 teams can draft me. There is only one of me. So the teams that I go to for my visit, those teams will have the medical and that’s it."

Yea, does that impact potential trades if the Chicago Bears opt to swap that No. 1 pick for more equity in the draft? Only one team may pick him, but which team? If not Chicago, then Washington? Atlanta? New England? Las Vegas? The New York Giants? Those are among the oft-mentioned teams who may move up to get him. 

But what the hell, this is the guy who dazzled us by the feats he managed off platform as a quarterback. Why stop now?

Here is why: Let's show some selfless understanding of a system that is in place for the good of the teams and the players. When Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm spearheaded the creation of the combine concept back in the 1980s, the primary reason was to have players undergo one medical examination that was shared by all teams. Before that, players traveled all over the country and endured medicals from multiple teams. The combine streamlined that, well, except for Williams. We know he pulled a hamstring and that hampered him late in 2022 and he was banged around quite a bit last season. 

Will teams be willing to talk trade with Chicago without a physical? Or do they contact Williams directly and request a physical? News of such a request would inevitably be leaked and cause a firestorm of real and social media reaction?

Along with the medicals, team interviews were also condensed at the combine to be better for all. Of course what captured the imagination of fans was the underwear olympics — the 40-yard dash, vertical leap, etc., etc. -— especially after it became a television spectacle in 2005. 

We will have more to say on Williams as the pre-draft season plays out. We have his profile analysis that will be updated. 

Meantime, word on the street here in Indy includes talk about Williams reportedly earning in the neighborhood of $10 million in NIL pay last season and the constant presence of his helicopter parents being a backdrop for some of his diva-like behavior.

At least Wiilliams spoke with the media at his scheduled time, which is more than offered by Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., rated by NDS as the best player in the draft, regardless of position. Harrison was here for team interviews and physicals. Fellow Ohio State WR alum Cris Carter reported that Harrison underwent a full-body scan. But Harrison skipped out on his scheduled interview with the media. 

Back to Friday's interview with Williams:

"A lot of things are coming out right now," Williams said when asked about his decision to be interviewed. "Y’all rarely see me speak. Ever...I wanted to put something out before I came here especially with all the noise and things like that that have been brewing and things like that. Since I’ve been here a bunch of stuff comes out. Just wanted to put something out so everyone knew exactly where it was coming from."

About what the Bears and their fans would be getting if he goes there: 

Williams: "I’d say the player and person they’d be getting [is] a person that cares for his teammates. Some of y’all may have seen, some of y’all may have not, I try to take care of all my guys, no matter if you’re fourth on the depth chart or the star player. So I care for my teammates and the other part is I’m a fierce competitor as you may have seen after some games. 

"The Bears were a 7-10 team. That is pretty good for a team that has the first pick. And they got a good defense. They got good players on offense and it’s pretty exciting if you can go into a situation like that. I think I’m my own player. I tend to like to create history and rewrite history. "

After winning a Heisman Trophy in 2022, what was it like during a rough 2023 season?

Williams: "This is one of the seasons that it’s not like any other season I’ve had. It’s where I’ve been so close to being neutral or close to having a losing record. It was tough for me. Like I said, I’m a competitor. I like to win. Being that close to losing was difficult to me, but I had people in my corner to help me and figure out the energy and feeling that I was feeling.

"I think it’s important going into situations because there is nobody in the first part of the draft that will be early in the draft and I expect myself to go high. To be a 12-and-whatever team, the teams are going to be at least from the year before. It’s kind of going to be like how I went into USC where they were 4-8 and things like that. Just prepare for those moments and I think last year was a perfect example. 

"You grow from something like that. And Lincoln [Riley] sat me down, after maybe our loss to Utah I believe, and he sat me down and said you either grow from something like this or you keep feeling this feeling and you’ll stay where you are. "

Williams was asked about critisicm he received after crying in his mother's arms in the stands after an emotional loss. He was knocked for not being with his teammates at that time. 

Williams: "There are not many people in the world that get to experience what I experience every game day, every practice day. So it kind of goes back to that for me. It’s something that I only get to experience. It’s something that I really care about – which is not only winning the game but doing it with my teammates. Every time we lose I feel like I let my teammates down."

On his decision not to throw or work out:

Williams: "Didn’t feel the need to go out and throw. I played around 30-something games I believe. Go ahead and watch real live ball of me and see how I am as a competitor. "

On his feelings about the Bears:

Williams, referring to meeting with Bears at Indy: "Ten minutes is difficult to figure out if they’re going to be able to develop you. I enjoyed the meeting. It was a good meeting, but 10 minutes or so it’s pretty difficult."

Regarding descriptions of his play as being an artist or surgeon:

WilliamsI’ve actually heard that about the artist or surgeon thing. I like to think that when it’s time to be surgical, it’s time to be surgical. There have been many games where it gets late in the game and I ran or scrambled and threw a crazy pass. That’s been the artist, magician. And then there has been times, even when I hurt my hamstring and couldn’t run I sat in the pocket the whole time the rest of the game and delivered the ball."

Well known as a magician when he runs around trying to make a play, Williams was asked how important it was to fight to stay IN the pocket:

Williams: "It's important to be in the pocket. It’s part of the game. It’s also important to be out of the pocket and be just as good to be in the pocket as out of the pocket."

Although he is not working out here, what event would he like to see in the combine?:

Williams: Wow. I’d add a swimming contest. That is my second sport.

On how his growth was impacted by playing at both Oklahoma and USC:

Williams: "So the cool thing about my experiences that all three years have been a bit different. This past year we went 7-5, so my leadership had to be different. The year before I came into a situation where we were 4-8, so my leadership needed to be different. The year before I came in as a backup and I jumped up and became the starter. So my leadership at times has been different and it’s helped groom me for the situation I’m going into now."


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