June 21, 2024

The poking.

The prodding.

The jabbing.

The all-day waits.

The deeply personal questions.

Caleb Williams says no thanks.

The former USC quarterback is expected to be the No. 1 pick at the NFL draft next month. That puts him in a unique position among all the top prospects gathered in Indianapolis this week for the league’s scouting combine.

He seems to have the leverage to skip any part of the combine he wants — including the tedious and often uncomfortable medical examination portion, if he so chooses.

And he so chooses, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner confirmed Friday at the combine.

“It really came down to not all 32 teams can draft me,” Williams told Pro Football Talk, “so why give all 32 teams my personal medical [information]?”

Players overwhelmingly seem to loathe the combine’s medical examination every year. And what’s not to loathe? In a process that is known to take around eight hours (including massive amounts of waiting and doing nothing), prospects undergo what amounts to probably the most intense doctors’ visit they’ve ever experienced while healthy. CT scans, X-rays and MRI scans are taken. Blood is drawn. An extensive medical history is gathered, with teams sometimes inquiring about minor injuries from the players’ childhoods.

Many NFL executives, however, consider the medical examination to be the most valuable portion of the scouting combine. So no matter how much disdain players have for the ritual, it is believed that no combine participant has ever refused to take part in the medical examination.

Until Williams.

Skeptics might think he’s trying to hide an injury or some other medical issue, but Williams said that’s not the case.

“There’s nothing there,” said Williams, who played through a significant hamstring injury during the 2022 Pac-12 championship game against Utah. “I played all 30 — however many games I played. I never came off the field unless my helmet came off and the ref took me off.”

He added that he fully intends to undergo medical examinations for the handful of teams he visits individually ahead of the draft. The Chicago Bears hold the No. 1 overall draft pick and need to decide whether to draft Williams or stick with third-year quarterback Justin Fields. Several other teams, including the Washington Commanders at No. 2 and the New England Patriots at No. 3, have a need at that position.

“My thing has just been, you know, give it to the teams that are gonna pursue me,” Williams said. “So on my visits, I’ll be doing medicals but just decided not to do it here.”

He also isn’t throwing at the combine.

“I didn’t feel the need to go out and throw,” Williams said Friday during a news conference. “I played around 30-something games, I believe. Go ahead and go watch real live ball of me and see how I am as a competitor.”

So what exactly is Williams doing while in Indianapolis? Crashing the news conference of former USC receiver Brenden Rice, for one thing.

“How does it feel to be [Hall of Fame wide receiver] Jerry Rice’s son?” Williams called out to the player with whom he connected for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.

“Man, it feels even better to be a teammate with Caleb Williams,” Rice responded.

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