GEORGETOWN KY - JULY 31: Adam Jones #24 of the Cincinnati Bengals is pictured during the Bengals training camp at Georgetown College on July 31 2010 in Georgetown Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
NFL rookies are getting a crash course in being a professional at this week's Rookie Symposium. More than making the transition, the event also encouraged players to start thinking about life after the game.
NFL rookies descended on suburban Cleveland on Sunday for another round of meetings and discussions, but the next week will be a little different. There will be no 40-yard-dash or cramming the playbook. The next generation of NFL players are in Ohio for a crash course on a range of topics spanning the history of the game to managing money.
Each year the NFL hosts the Rookie Symposium for its newest group of employees. Going from college to the real world is a culture shock for anyone. The jump from campus life to professional football is a seismic shift, and the league uses the event as part of the process to help its rookies adjust.
"The rookie symposium is a crash course on life in the NFL and some of the surrounding issues that they're going to deal with throughout their rookie season," La'Roi Glover, the St. Louis Rams' director of player engagement, explained.
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"There are a couple big transitions for rookies," Glover said in an interview with SB Nation. "No. 1, they have to realize that it's no longer just a game. It's business at the end of the day. In college, you had to go to class. Here, there is no class. You work from nine-to-five just like every other American. From that standpoint, it's a tougher transition."
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"Second, dealing with money, and the positives and negatives that come with dealing with money, and lots of money for that matter," Glover said. "Helping those guys navigate that transition provides some challenges, but at the end of the day there are some tangible results."
Retired defensive tackle Warren Sapp is the latest former professional athlete to find himself in the headlines for money troubles. His spring bankruptcy offers another cautionary tale for professional athletes. Glover works with players to manage their money in the short-term with an eye on avoiding a fate similar to Sapp's.
"You're going to have family and friends coming out of the woodwork trying to get a piece of it," Glover said. "If you set things up properly, you can have a very sustainable post-career after football, where you're still able to provide for your family and still able to live a healthy and successful life afterwards."
Current and former players will be on hand this week to speak to the rookies and facilitate the meetings. Exchanging that perspective makes the Rookie Symposium that much more successful, says Glover.
"Whether they be meetings on financial issues, sex, alcohol, drugs, money, branding or marketing, I think it helps to have a facilitator there to kind of add and shed some light on some of the issues," he explained.
Among the guest speakers at the symposium are a pair of high-profile cautionary tales, Pacman Jones and Terrell Owens. Jones is the subject of a multi-million lawsuit stemming from a 2007 shooting at a Las Vegas strip club. Owens is broke and looking for work after being released by an Indoor Football League team.
"Young players have a tendency to think they're bullet proof, that they're impenetrable, that nothing can knock them down," Glover said. "When you hear real stories from real guys who had a lot of success on the field but struggled off the field for one reason or the other, I think it helps."
The players in Ohio this week have yet to take a single snap of NFL football or even go through a practice with their new teams wearing pads and making contact. On the surface, that creates a certain dissonance with the reality that the Rookie Symposium is, in many ways, a first step toward helping players transition to life after football. That link is not lost on a wily veteran like Glover.
"Hopefully, you can play 10 years, when most guys would be 32 when they retire," Glover said. "They have more than double their lives, hopefully, to live still. If they do this thing successfully, not only will they have long careers, but they will be able to transition out of this business and into another business and have success that way as well. It's something that they can build, something that they can touch.
"At the end of the day, the individual player has to want to make some of these tangible changes."