Why prospects are skipping combine bench press

INDIANAPOLIS — A group of 15 wide receivers stepped up to the stage, the one erected inside the Indianapolis Convention Center just for this week’s NFL scouting combine, where prospects are tasked with bench-pressing 225 pounds as many reps as possible.

It’s a favorite event during combine week, even if the lift doesn’t give a complete picture of a prospect’s overall strength. But this year feels a little different.

One by one, the receivers stepped up to a microphone and spoke a message to the assembled scouts and coaches:

“I won’t be benching by choice. I’ll bench at my pro day.”

Injuries were given as the excuse for a few, but it was clear many healthy players were choosing not to bench on their own volition.

Only two receivers from that particular pod opted to bench at the combine: Tulsa’s Josh Johnson and Northern Iowa’s Isaiah Weston.

Johnson had fun with the situation that was unfolding, choosing his words very carefully when he eventually stepped up to the bench-press mic to introduce himself.

“Josh Johnson, University of Tulsa, and I will be benching,” he said.

A few observers, clearly seeing what was going on, laughed. Johnson then put up a very respectable 14 reps. Weston followed with a terrific total of 20.

But for this combine, Johnson and Weston are the outliers. Most prospects appear to be forgoing the bench this year in Indy.

“I am telling all my guys not to,” one prominent agent told Yahoo Sports this week. “They can bench at their pro days if they want to.”

Even in an era of players attempting to control their futures as much as possible, this isn’t just a lazy route. It comes for a very good reason, at least in the players’ and agents’ minds.

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich competes on the bench press event at the 2022 NFL Combine, but other prospects are opting not to do…

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