|NFL cancels rookie symposium, usually a big event for the Patriots||05.24.11 at 1:46 pm ET|
Today, I wrote about how the lockout is robbing this year’s class of valuable transition time — the entire spring schedule of organized team activities, minicamps and playbook study has been wiped out, which will undoubtedly put a serious crimp in their evolution as football players. And on Tuesday, it was announced that this year’s rookie class will lose another part of that transition process, as this year’s rookie symposium, scheduled to be held in Canton. Ohio on June 26, has been canceled because of the lockout.
Created in 1997, this annual get-together is an opportunity for rookies to hear from current and former players about what to expect when it comes to both on- and off-field issues. Usually a four-day affair, this wasn’t the usual tired seminar, instead focusing on cautionary tales of sex, drugs (both performance-enhancers and otherwise), personal conduct and financial matters that have occasionally even sparked fights between players — which happened in 2008.
While it has been praised as an important part of rookie life, it has also create some offseason headlines — and headaches — for the NFL hierarchy. There have been fights between rookies over contentious issues. Tennessee running back Lendale White raised eyebrows when he asked this question during a session dealing with homophobia. And a few years back, Baltimore quarterback Troy Smith challenged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, asking Goodell why he chooses to focus on all the negative things the players do, and then pressed the commissioner when Smith believed Goodell didn’t sufficiently answer his question.
The Patriots have had deep ties to the symposium over the years, whether in an advisory capacity or otherwise. In 2002, former Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour addressed the 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 last year, former New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi spoke with rookies.
There’s also something called the “Ultimate Rookie Challenge,” a trivia contest held at the end of the symposium that featured questions on the materials they learned. The Patriots rookies won two of the last three years, with each rookie taking home a flat-screen television for their efforts.
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