|Patriots rookies headed for annual baptism into NFL life||06.24.10 at 10:42 am ET|
While their veteran teammates will continue to maximize the final five weeks or so before the start of training camp, NFL rookies will be hard at work this weekend at the annual NFL Rookie Symposium in Carlsbad, Calif.
Created in 1997, the annual get-together, hosted by the NFL and the National Football League Players Association, is a chance for rookies to hear from current and former players, as well as get a sense of some of the on- and off-field issues they will face in their first season in the league. Beginning on Sunday and running for four days, the symposium includes four 16-hour days of meetings on a wide variety of topics, including financial management, the personal conduct code, the league’s banned-substance policy and how to deal with the media.
According to Patriots’ Vice President of Media Relations Stacey James, the entire 2010 Patriots’ rookie class is slated to attend. In addition, former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi is scheduled to take part this year, joining a list of ex-players who have addressed the rookies that includes Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter, Harold Carmichael and Len Dawson.
According to those who have attended these sessions, these are not your usual vanilla-bland seminars. Frank discussions on sex and money, and cautionary tales of hazardous off-field associations have led to arguments, and in the case of the 2008 symposium, fights between players.
When it comes to attendance, the league takes this session very seriously — this week, there was some debate over whether or not Minnesota wide receiver Percy Harvin, who just finished his rookie season, would be forced to attend this year’s symposium because he missed last year after a bout of migraine headaches. (An NFL spokesman told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Harvin would not have to show up this year because “he received the appropriate training during the season at the club level through the Vikings’ player development department.”)
There’s been no such question about the New England rookies. In some form or fashion, the Patriots have made their mark on the rookie symposium the last few years. In 2002, it was in an advisory role, when former New England defensive lineman Richard Seymour spoke to the first-year players about what to expect. (In a story he later related to reporters, he talked a night where the rookies had to take the veterans out to dinner. Seymour, a first-round pick in 2001, had to fork over $15,000. “That was when I decided to put myself on a budget,” Seymour later said.)
And the last two years, the Patriots’ rookies have won the “Ultimate Rookie Challenge,” a trivia contest at the end of the symposium that featured questions on the materials they learned. (Each rookie won a flat-screen TV for his efforts.)
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