About 300 participants worked out over the weekend at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, N.J., in the NFL's version of America's Got Football Talent.
Reporters were invited to this event and the one person they were most interested in was Lauren Silberman, who on Sunday was became the first woman to participate in a league-sponsored tryout.
Silberman, 28, a former Wisconsin club soccer player from New York City, was among the 69 placekickers and punters on hand Sunday. Shortly after 1 p.m., without taking any warmup kicks, Silberman attempted two short kickoffs, then left with a quadriceps pull she said she had been working through from training during the week. After discussing with league officials about returning to finish her tryout, she ended her day with just those two kickoffs in her folder.
Her participation brought attention to the NFL's previously low-key regional combine program. This year's 10 regionals serve as a supplement to the league's National Scouting Combine, which concluded last week in Indianapolis, and provide an opportunity for players to display their skills before veteran NFL talent evaluators.
Headlines from some media outlets were in error regarding these combines. Silberman was not trying out for a specific NFL team on Sunday, and she wasn't trying out for the Jets, who only provided their training complex for the event.
The only requirements for NFL hopefuls to participate in these regional combines was to register online and to meet NFL eligibility rules. The combines are conducted specifically for:
■ Players eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft but not attending the national combine.
■ Players with college experience who were eligible for a prior draft and want to gauge their pro potential.
■ Players with some pro playing experience but who have been out of the game for a period of time.
Those prospects who perform well at the regionals, such as those among the 300 at the Jets' training complex over the weekend, may be invited to compete in the Super Regional Combine, which this year will be held at Cowboys Stadium on April 7-8.
At the Super Regional, players will have the chance to work out and showcase their talents in front of NFL team scouts and player personnel directors.
This is the third year the NFL is holding regional combines. Last year there were eight regionals, including one at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. And it isn't out of the question for a handful of athletes to climb out of this process and into the pros. Last year 69 participants made it onto NFL rosters heading into training camps. Four, including St. Louis K Greg Zuerlein, wound up being selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. And two who weren't drafted made it onto the Jets' roster for short periods — LS Derek Chard for camp and LB Marcus Dowtin, who not only participated in training camp but played in three midseason games for the Green & White before being released.