Wednesday whys: Listen up, rookies

Why do the all the rookies gather every year at this time for the NFL Rookie Symposium?

This annual event has become a staple of the NFL calendar. It’s a gathering of all drafted rookie – some clubs have only a handful, others have up to 12 – to sit through three days of meetings, seminars, breakout sessions, speakers and multiple warnings about bad behavior. The players are hyper-scheduled; they barely have time for bathroom breaks, and the league likes it that way because it’s better to herd them in and out of meetings when time is short.

The atmosphere – as I’ve been told from players – is akin to summer camp, with each team (bunk) and its counselor (the team’s player programs director) participating along with and against other teams’ rookie classes. Players always come back from these events with stories about players who wouldn’t stop asking questions, others who were clowning around the whole time and still others who impressed them with their knowledge and/or forthright questions to the speakers and panelists.

The key presentations, from my standpoint, are financial. As I mention all the time to players, both as a former agent and team representative, there’s nothing more important to their careers in professional football than the potential it has for financial security and the head start it gives them on the rest of their collegiate peers. It’s not what they make that counts; it’s what they keep.

There are presentations along these lines at the symposium. They detail a sample contract – say $1 million – and the deductions that come out of it: federal taxes, state taxes, city taxes, agent fees, family expenses, housing, food, clothing, etc. After presenting the group with $1M of earnings, the presentation will show that the player is left with roughly $200,000.

The problem with the symposium is one the NFL can’t fix. The players who need to heed the advice the most usually don’t, and the ones who need to hear it the least take it to heart. One player came back and just shook his head, saying he felt like he was “in the ‘hood” the whole week.

Some of these players won’t be in the league in a couple of months; some will last a year or two, and a minority will play more than four or five years. Thus, the importance of listening intently to the financial presentations, although almost all of the rookies think they’re invincible at this age.

This week featured a presentation from the new executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, which is a good thing for these rookies. He’s someone they should know and listen to intently, as he will be their leader for a while -- and they hope to be his constituents for a while.

The other major topic is a host of presentations, skits and workshops around personal conduct. Which brings me to…

Why is Commissioner Roger Goodell in no hurry to rule on Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress?

Why should he be? Goodell put a chill into those breathlessly awaiting an outcome of discipline for these two high-profile star players whose conduct has been at issue for some time. By telling everyone to cool their heels for a while, Goodell can make a reasoned and informed decision based on what he sees.

And what is that? With Vick, he wants to see true remorse, meaning more than words. That will be hard to document, but images of his return to his Virginia home with dozens waiting and a videographer can’t help.

As to Burress, the delay tactics to push the whole matter into 2010 and his steadfast refusal to take a deal that would provide months – not years – of jail time have probably irritated the commissioner.

So these players – and any teams interested in them – will wait.

Why were the Eagles the first team to jump into the second round when they signed running back LeSean McCoy?

It’s difficult to be the first contract done in any round of the NFL Draft, especially the higher rounds. Without a market being set, teams and agents are left to figure out where they think the market will land with regard to increases. With the McCoy deal, Drew and Jason Rosenhaus were willing to jump into the pool before anyone else and we were able to find some common ground.

With all that’s said about Drew Rosenhaus and his antics, the one thing that team executives like about him is that he is, first and foremost, a deal maker. He simply has too many clients not to be. In my job negotiating contracts for the Packers, and now as a consultant to the Eagles, I know this firsthand.

When Drew and I went to breakfast at the Penrose Diner in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago, he let his guard down a bit and we talked about a lot of things not related to football. Drew and I have had our battles in the past – Mike McKenzie, Javon Walker, etc. -- but we put the business aside and I made him drop the act and just talk. Behind that fa

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