INDIANAPOLIS -- For all the emphasis the NFL places on performance and game tape of college players, it is undeniable that the combine carries a heavy responsibility for the guys coming out each year. There are winners and losers here, there are players who make a lot of money and others who lose a fortune.
Massive left tackle Andre Smith of Alabama is among the biggest losers so far. He bailed on the combine on Saturday without telling anyone. His agent took the bullet and the blame for him. But what Smith did could wind up costing him big-time on April 25. He had been projected a top 10 pick in the draft, one of the three best offensive tackles.
He still may get there. But it's a lot harder now. Smith will have a chance to perform at Alabama's pro day in March. He will be to knock scouts over with his attitude, conditioning and speed. Still, he can't erase the fact he pulled an erratic stunt at the combine. He waffled on whether he would work out here or not, and then, without explanation, he left. His statement later was shaky at best. He already has weight issues. Now he has character issues. Not good.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree appears to be another loser, although not of his doing. The stress fracture in his left foot will probably cost him draft position. His decision is whether to have surgery now or surgery later. He told NFL Network he will run in March and then have the needed surgery. If he runs reasonably well, he protects his draft position. It's a gamble. You hope he doesn't hurt the foot worse. If he comes up lame, who's going to invest a high first-round pick on him?
These are business decisions in Indianapolis. Smith made a poor one. Crabtree is trying not to make a poor one. Time will tell.
Veteran NFL and Ravens writer Ken Murray is covering the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis for The Baltimore Sun. He will keep you updated on developments daily.