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Rookie Symposium: I Can't Decide

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Rookie Symposium: I Can't Decide

Interesting post from Jack Bechta over at the National Football Post regarding the NFL's annual Rookie Symposium. (For those unaware, Bechta represents several NFL players including Al Harris)

Money quote:

Overall, the symposium does a good job of using both scare tactics and education as tools to get through to the players. High profile retired players share their personal experiences with the rookies, which can have a powerful impact. Experts from all fields give practical advice on how to make good decisions, along with explaing the consequences that come with bad ones.

I will have four rookies in attendance, all of whom are excited about the chance to learn from both the vets and the experts. After the conclusion of the symposium, I will get a debriefing from my rookies and let them know I am always available to help them with any decisions. Continuing education for all NFL players is a never-ending process. Each NFL team employs a player development executive who is responsible for guiding vets and rookies alike through the challenges of everyday life as an NFL player.

Pro athletes have to grow up fast if they want to manage their business, social and family affairs successfully. Unfortunately, the job of a pro athlete can also extend adolescence if a player decides to let everyone handle everything for them. By Thursday of this week, 254 pro athletes will be better prepared to face the world.

Not surprisingly, I'm of two minds on the whole proceeding.

On the one hand, I think its great that the league has taken it upon themselves (albeit after receiving pressure from the NFLPA and the public) to try and start an education process early when it comes to their latest influx of talent. Anything that helps empower these young men to make good decisions is obviously a positive.

On the other hand, why is it the NFL's responsibility to dole out common sense? And how much good is it really doing? (Just this morning Cedric Benson was arrested and charged with assault stemming from an incident in Austin back on May 30th - maybe we need a 5th Year Player Symposium)

There's always going to be this type of idiotic element mixed in with the general NFL populace no matter how many meetings they are made to sit through.

I don't know. Maybe the positives outweigh the negatives here. Maybe I'm just in a bad mood.

I truly hope so.

UPDATE: Good perspective here from Len Pasquarelli.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (44) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Rob Davis's picture

You know, kids, in my day, Brett and Chewey would line 'em up and knock 'em down. Even Chris Jacke could simply flip his mullet and the ladies would be all over his wallet. You need to check yoself, before and even after the inevitable wrecking of one's-self. Remember that. (Rookies stare blankly, pondering how cool of a beard Rob Davis has, and how he got a job as a long-snapper).

Jersey Al's picture

If it helps even a few "borderline" guys stay out of the papers for the wrong reasons, then it's worth it. I don't like that any of this is necessary, but you have to accept the reality of the situation.

PackerGorilla's picture

I think you answer your own question here, Aaron. The positives outweigh the negatives. Obviously, it is all well and good that these guys make smart decisions for their own sake, but the NFL has its own interests to look out for.

To the NFL, what is the downside of sending these kids out to San Diego for the weekend? That it costs some money to put the conference on?

I think the NFL would gladly exchange that money for the chance to avoid the bad PR that its players can't seem to help cauing. If the conference makes a few of these guys to realize they might have more to lose than their old buddies from Houston, or to think "you know what, maybe I won't bring a trash bag of money to the club" or even "I am grown man, I shouldn't be a prom party" - it saves Goodel some sleep.

Positives outweight the negatives.

Franklin Hillside's picture

"I am grown man, I shouldn't be at a prom party" -That is fantastic.

Dan Bonney's picture

I agree with Jersey Al. It shouldn't be necessary but as long as it translates to wins on the field for our guys I support it. Then again no symposium is going to help a douche bag not be a douche bag but if it helps a few of the in between guys who struggle with the fame and money then good.

packeraaron's picture

" symposium is going to help a douche bag not be a douche bag." lol - that's brilliant.

maxginsberg's picture

The NFL treats its "employees" as any big company would. The Rookie Symposium is just part of the training.

I agree with Al; if it helps teach even one rookie to stay out of trouble, manage their finances, or deal with fame, it's well worth it.

On the other hand, it does seem like another mechanism for the NFL to control its players.

Now I don't know what I think...Damn you and your thought provoking posts, Nagler!

PackerBacker's picture

It's not like it's "the Man" keeping them down here. They are telling them that they are going to make a ton of money, and that unless they want to be bagging groceries in 10 years, they should plan ahead accordingly. There is no control here. If Vince Young wants to go to another strip club, he can. But he and every other player should know the consequences they face if they make that choice. That's what they doing here. There is no down side to this.

maxginsberg's picture

I'm not saying "the man" is keeping these guys down, but making a set of meetings mandatory does equate to control.

The NFL isn't doing this to be fatherly. Despite all the good things that occur at this meeting, the main reason the NFL runs a rookie symposium is so they don't have to deal with their employees getting arrested.

The bottom line is the league doesn't want the bad PR, so they set up a symposium to tell all the rookies not to screw up. The message from the league is clear: If you mess up, we'll suspend you or even kick you out of the league.

PackerBacker's picture

I hear what your saying Max, but in a way, the NFL has every right to let their employees know that if they screw up and give the NFL a black eye, there are going to be repercussions. They aren't stopping them from getting a gun. They are just saying it you shoot yourself in the leg, we aren't going to let you play football any more.

maxginsberg's picture

You're right. And the example you provided well illustrates the case that some of these rookies *need* to be explicitly told what is acceptable and unacceptable.

ps. Is it time for training camp yet?

DaveK's picture

Geez, you must really be looking for something to bitch about today.

packeraaron's picture

"I’m of two minds on the whole proceeding" - there I go bitching again. (rollseyes)

frosty's picture

Aw c'mon Aaron, you even suggested maybe you're in a bad mood :P

Alex's picture

Why are you in a bad mood?

packeraaron's picture

That's a whole other post.

CSS's picture

I think it's needed. While I doubt a brief symposium really has a lasting effect on these kids you have to remember many of them are only 3 years, 4 years at most removed from HIGH SCHOOL and now making a six-figure income.

I considered myself to be fairly mature compared to my peers waaaaay back when I was 22, but by ability to reason was, well, immature as hell.

I think the leagues ability to be consistant with suspensions/fines for being an idiot has more impact than a brief symposium.

Satori's picture

Its in all of our best interests to have the symposium for these guys

It helps the players make better decisions.

It helps the fans who are tired of hearing how these guys pissed away OUR money.

And it helps the NFL, especially as they talk about a new CBA.
The players gripe that they need to EARN more money, the reality is they need to KEEP more of the money they make.

The net effect could be that the players could still enjoy a ridiculously lavish lifestyle while not earning any additional income.

Its not a revenue issue, its a spending issue and the problem is there regardless of how much we pay them. Glad to see some effort to fix the problem instead of just giving them more and more money that they have no idea how to handle.

packeraaron's picture

That's the thing - give them investment advice by all means. But did you read Jack's post? Demoing how to use a condom on a banana? Really? This is the NFL's responsibility?

Wiscokid's picture

Aaron, you are so correct. After all, bananas don't even have penises. Why would they even need a condom? That's just crazy.

PackerBacker's picture

Tell that to Brandon Marshall.

PackersRS's picture

Tell that to Antonio Cromartie!

frosty's picture

What? No love for Travis Henry?

misterj's picture

Considering the state of sex education in the USA... yes, it is, sadly.

PackersRS's picture

What the hell are the colleges in this country teaching this kids, that they spend at least 3 years in it and still need a lecture how not to be a complete moron and destroy their lifes?

Student-athlete my ass. Pardon the french.

CSS's picture

Colleges are among the more uninhibited environements I've ever been around. Easy access to recreational drugs, binge-drinking, casual sex, extremes of both conservative and liberal ideologies, et.

I went to two top notch colleges and know the classroom material was high-quality. So was 'sowing ones wild oats', if you will..

Wiscokid's picture

I was thinking pretty much the same thing. It's pretty obvious that many of these guys dodged an education while they were in college and the schools turn a blind eye to that fact. The schools should take some responsibility for the results. You would think that as part of their education that somewhere along the line they should get some counselling that better prepares them for what lies ahead of them. There is no way that a seminar offered by the NFL is going fix much of anything at this point.

PackersRS's picture

Exactly. The guy has been uneducated his whole life. And now that his character is pretty much formed, they think a little seminar will change his behavior? "Child, please!"

And if he has maturity, and not character issues, those will not be corrected by a seminar either.

The way I feel, those help the kids who have the commitment to learn, but weren't thought in their life how to handle the adult life (which they all should've been thought to, if not by their parents, at least at the college they attended). Which makes for 5, 10% of the rookies. For the rest, it's useless. They either won't pay attention, or already know how to properly behave.

Tarynfor12's picture

A couple of things i don't agree with;
1st is no big business does anything of this size for the hope of teaching or saving a few or the one.This is solely an NFL image enhancement and protection and a "I TOLD YOU" what will happen program.The question here is how many other CORPORATIONS of any business essentially hire this many automatic"millionaires" day one on the job?
2nd,saying these guys(kids or adult) are just 4 years removed from high school is no excuse for the lack of responsibility on anyone's part(players,parents,teams,colledge coaches) for isn't this exactly what they were all part of, the quest to play in the NFL and make alot of money.
3rd,the problem will never be fixed or even controlled to a higher degree while the majority continue to describe them as "KIDS".Others' come out of colledge and work and some enter the Armed Forces and are regarded as "MEN"or"YOUNG MEN" but never kids.
So it is my opinion that the NFL and the Players Union need to set up chapperone service and an "ALLOWANCE BOARD" to watch over this "KIDS" or just restructure the very cause of the problem-ROOKIE SALARIES given to these"KIDS".

CSS's picture

I understand what you're saying and the differentiation you make between 'kids' and 'young men.' I agree with your example of the armed forces and how they tend to produce responsible, respectable young men.

But realize, these NFL players were touted as 'stars' in their respective high schools and communities, often elevated to star status in their respective schools. They existed on the fringe of rules if not elevated above them.

Then the recruiting process begin their junior year to senior year of high school where they're told constantly by recruiters, coaches, peers and sometimes even families (nor responsible ones) that they're, 'the best'. They get rock-star receptions for on-campus visits and special accomodations that the average college applicant couldn't possibly fathom.

Then you're recruited, you get the best facilities, special dormatories, tutoring and counciling that help you navigate everything (i.e. - you're spoon fed like no other 'student').

Now you're considering an agent that lavishes praise on you. You get NFL advisory board feedback that you're a lock to be picked in the 1st three rounds.

All of this, and you're 3-4 years removed from high school.

How is this remotely tied to the reality that 99% of all other 21-22 year olds experience as they mature into young adults? Don't get me wrong, some coaches in high school/college, mentors along the way and family keep kids grounded. However, many more don't. Real world examples and expectation just don't apply.

PackersRS's picture

I understand what you're saying, that they're spoiled from early on, but it's not completely different. The same way these star kids aren't prepared for adulthood, there're tons of emotionally scarved kids that aren't also. And those don't have the means to overcome it, they have to do it on their own.

NFL players (because of their own merits, I know) have it good, let's not pretend otherwise.

Graffin's picture

Great break down/comparison of situations. Packer news,breakdown of life,whatever, both entertaining.

IronMan's picture

"I don’t know. Maybe the positives outweigh the negatives here. Maybe I’m just in a bad mood."

What are the negatives?

packeraaron's picture

That, right off the bat, these kids think the world will hold their hand. Just enhances the "you have someone looking out for you" mentality.

Tarynfor12's picture

Let's not confuse "building confidence" with "building entitlement" which is the very thing that gets these players in trouble.So by that account of them being taught this from the start perhaps the NFL,since these young people will be hired by the NFL in the future,need to move these symposiums to the high school and continue into the colledge years and not just when their given $millions and in the doorway.

jerseypackfan's picture

off is Walter Payton making the 84 Packers look silly with "The Wildcat"

Tarynfor12's picture

Yeah,any time someone other than the QB takes the snap can be considered a"WILDCAT" formation as the same goes with the Steelers and "SLASH"Stewart.LOL

davyjones's picture

Mark Brunell made something like $51MM since he started in the league (what, like 10-12 years?).
This week he filed for bankruptcy...if he'd had just a little education and guidance, he could have sock away a coupla those Mil for a rainy day. some of these guys will get absolutely preyed on (wanna buy a llama farm in Montana??) and need some warning.

Tarynfor12's picture

Brunell is educated but not a smart business man.Totally different problem as when dealing with the young ones and getting in trouble with law because of no teachings or bad teachings.
Is Brunell still considered a "kid"?When do players become accountable for their actions and the get out of jail free cards run out.
Who is feeling sorry for us if we partake in these type of things and get stung,no-one.Personally i have no sympathy for any player in any sport who was given the world and THEY abused it and lost it.
Learning right from wrong isn't hard and doesn't take a lifetime to figure out,it's in front of everyone all the time.SMALL CHILDREN make MISTAKES and the rest make DECISIONS and try to call it a MISTAKE.

davyjones's picture

Don't get me wrong...I have NO sympathy for Brunnell, nor do I excuse him from his responsibilty to make good life decisions. I'm just saying that when these guys are young, being forewarned as to the potential pitfalls they may encounter isn't necesarily a bad thing. A little info from those with experience and/or expertise can't hurt.

Wiscokid's picture

Maybe what the NFL should do to punish offenders is to send them out to the colleges to give some sort of "scared straight" lecture plus Q&A. This could be required before reinstatement into the NFL and should start with their alma mater. The number of school visits could vary with the type of offense the player committed.

This could act as a deterrent, punishment, counselling (for the students) and embarrassment for the school (alma mater). In this way, the colleges bare some of the load for what is being produced from their schools.

Fines don't seem to work nor does picking up cans along the highway.

Tarynfor12's picture

A career field that appears to be underrated as by how many are entering it.LOL

Wiscokid's picture

It would have to be more effective than having the league demonstrate how to put rubbers on fruit.

Tarynfor12's picture

Davyjones,I agree that some kind of forwarning is helpful,but as I said before,the NFL waits until they get the money and in the door.

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