The annual NFL rookie symposium was created in recent years as a way to help rookies adjust to an NFL lifestyle. However due to complications resulting from the current lockout, the NFL decided to cancel the rookie symposium for the 2011 class as of May 24. In an official statement by the NFL's leading spokesperson Greg Aiello, the NFL determined that "the symposium is a large, complex event involving many professionals and others. In fairness, we could not continue to keep their commitment on hold."
In response to the cancellation, the NFLPA has decided to host its own version of the symposium: a two-day seminar held on June 28-29 entitled "The Business of Football: Rookie Edition." Reported topics include personal security, long-term budgeting, and post-football careers.
The NFLPA made a good call on this one. In today's NFL, we have rookies who often times go from relative unknowns to being the center of the national spotlight instantly. We have young men who are made millionaires without playing a single snap of professional football. In addition, many of these young men often times did not grow up in living situations condusive to preparing people to deal with large amounts of money.
Just imagine for a second: you're 22, fresh out of college, and suddenly you have just signed a contract worth over $10 million per year. What are going to do? Why, go on a carefree spending spree of course. Add in "long lost relatives" or friends constantly mooching off of you, plus the expectations that come with being a No. 1 draft pick, and you have yourself a potentially volatile outcome. Some handle it well, and some go on to be the next Jamarcus Russell. It today's NFL, I find it imperative that these young players receive professional advice about the NFL lifestyle.
None of this, however, should be too much of a concern for Atlanta's rookies. GM Thomas Dimitroff has made it a point to only draft players recognized as "good character" guys. Take a look back at all the guys drafted by the Falcons over the past three years, and you'll find that almost all are team leaders that stay out of trouble and play with intensity.
Often times character concerns can be overblown in pre-draft analysis, but in some cases these character issues manifest themselves into the type of problems that can derail an entire NFL career. These legitimate concerns are what creates the need for definite need for a rookie symposium. The NFL dropped the ball, and I commend the NFLPA for taking the initiative.