Oher Put on the Spot at Symposium

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Ravens rookie Michael Oher was put on the spot this week at the 13th annual NFL Rookie Symposium in Palm Beach Grove, Fla.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addressed a group of 252 new professionals at the four-day meeting, preaching the value of making news on the field, not off it.

He playfully called out Oher for a statement the offensive tackle made at his introductory press conference in Baltimore.

A day after the Ravens selected him 26th overall, Oher told the media, "I'm trying to learn myself and I'm going to give it my all and just do everything I possibly can to beat Pittsburgh."

Oops! At that press conference, those in attendance took it as more of a joke, considering the Steelers had beaten Baltimore three times in 2008.

But the point was well taken. Perhaps it is better to save the talk for the gridiron.

Tomlin's talk was just one of the presentations given to the large group of young men that spoke to the theme "Own The Moment." Many of the players in the large ballroom at the PGA National Resort would soon become millionaires, with more money and power than they've ever had in their lives.

With the average NFL career lasting about 3 ½ seasons, the league does its best to hammer home the importance of their potentially brief moment at this level.

"This year's symposium was one of the best I've seen at relating everything to the theme," said Harry Swayne, the Ravens' assistant director of player programs. "They really brought it home, and I think our guys understand that. We have a good group."

That group consisted of all six draft picks: Oher, Paul Kruger, Lardarius Webb, Jason PhillipsDavon Drew and Cedric Peerman.

Decked out in matching Ravens purple and black from June 28 to July 1, the Ravens' rookies joined their counterparts from all 31 other franchises, to learn about such topics as personal conduct, substance abuse, player rights and benefits, high-risk behavior and how to manage finances.

Through a partnership between the NFL and NFL Players Association, the symposium was made interesting by encouraging interaction in various skits and question and answer panels with various speakers.

In addition to Tomlin, second-year players Dustin Keller, Harry Douglas and Chris Long took the dais, along with former and current players such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Carter, Kevin Mawae, Ross Tucker and Marcellus Wiley.

The Ravens have already heard most of the lessons, however.

Baltimore's program, originally set up by director of player development O.J. Brigance, is routinely rated as one of the best in the league at preparing rookies for taking the next step in life.

Both Swayne and Brigance were in Florida for the Symposium.

"We like to create a base for the players back in Baltimore, but this is a good opportunity to interact with other players, some friends or former teammates, while they are learning more about the NFL," Swayne explained. "We can talk to them all we want, but the symposium offers some more voices for them.

"It is another way to show the tremendous resources the league has set up for the players to do well, both in life and on the field."

At the end of the event, each team's group participates in what is called the "Ultimate Rookie Challenge," a trivia contest that quizzes the rookies on what they learned during the week. Last year, the Ravens won the contest, but this year it was the New England Patriots.

Even so, Swayne was proud of the way the Ravens represented themselves.

"They did a great job with all the lectures and presentations," Swayne said. "I think they're set up for success." 

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