By BARRY WILNER
Indianapolis will be keeping the NFL scouting combine for the next two years after team owners at their meetings in Atlanta on Tuesday approved the city that has staged the winter event since 1987 for players entering the draft.
The owners also are discussing possibly dropping the Pro Bowl or totally revamping it. No decision is expected at these meetings.
Indianapolis was granted hosting rights for the 2023 and 2024 combines. This was the first time the NFL put the combine up for bidding, with Dallas and Los Angeles also seeking to host.
“Indy’s vision brings together its long legacy of successfully hosting the combine and executing the evaluation process, with an exciting focus on innovating and further growing the event from a fan and media perspective,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL executive vice president of club business and league events.
“Indy is a city built to host major sporting events, and I’m proud the combine will continue to stay in our city,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said.
Studies showed that the 2022 combine generated an estimated $9.6 million in economic impact for the city.
Irsay and his family plan a new legacy program focused on mental health and designed to benefit Indianapolis residents as well.
In 2023, the combine will take place Feb. 28–March 6, and in 2024 the dates are Feb. 27-March 4.
While the combine is a growing event, the Pro Bowl could be on its last legs. Many owners believe the game is not up to NFL standards and has been devolving over the past few years. While it has not become a touch football exercise, the Pro Bowl has little intensity, and players regularly drop out of participating.
Commissioner Roger Goodell frequently has acknowledged that while it’s important to honor the players who have earned Pro Bowl recognition, there are questions about the quality of the game. So the league will have further discussions with the players and their union, as well as with NFL partners, on the future of the all-star contest played the weekend before the Super Bowl.
The league also announced four new international home marketing areas, with the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams adding New Zealand and the Philadelphia Eagles granted Australia, New Zealand and Ghana, making them the first NFL franchise to enter a market in Africa. The Eagles and Rams can activate in their newly awarded markets on June 1.
The expanded program, launched in January, now includes 19 teams granted access to 30 international areas across 10 countries. Each team has access to international territories for marketing, fan engagement and commercialization as the NFL seeks to become more global.
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