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Rookies Learn the NFL Ropes


The indoctrination of the Ravens' 10 draft picks continues this week with the annual NFL Rookie Symposium. But, the meeting's focus is more concerned with what happens off the field, not on it.

Wrapping up Wednesday, the young prospects are spending four days in Carlsbad, Calif. to receive a crash course in financial planning, continuing education, substance abuse and many other subjects that will aid their development as professionals.

The symposium was created by the NFL in 1997 in conjunction with the NFL Player's Association.

All 252 players taken in April's selection show attend the symposium for a full schedule of events, such as roundtable discussions among their peers, presentations from media members, coaches and front office staffers, and even daily "Jeopardy"-style quiz games.

As in past years, the Ravens were accompanied by director of player development O.J. Brigance, in addition to assistant Harry Swayne.

Brigance sees this program as critical during a time in the NFL where rap sheets of players seem to dominate headlines nearly as much as their gridiron exploits.

"We're really charging them with the responsibility over their destiny," Brigance said. "This league is not about only them; there is more to it. There were some valuable lessons to be learned."

Such lessons are all the more important in the NFL's current climate. Oakland Raiders wideout Javon Walker was recently beaten and robbed of $3,000 and $100,000 worth of jewelry. Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was murdered last year in his south Florida home.

And, Ravens tight end Daniel Wilcox even had his house broken into earlier in the offseason.

Those may only be a few examples, but all underscore the league's reasons for rounding up the rookies.

"I hope our players come back to Baltimore and don't waste any moment of their careers," Brigance continued.

Money played a prominent role, as well.

For rookies that were dining in their school's cafeteria mere months ago, suddenly gaining millions of dollars can invite shady hangers-on and needy family members. Many players that are entering their second NFL season - including Ravens tackle Jared Gaither - offered their thoughts on fiscal responsibility.

Gaither, a White Plains, Md. native, suggested creating a special pool for family members to draw from, and then marking a clear stopping point when that money dries up.

Training and conditioning were also hot topics, considering how grueling a full 16-game schedule can be compared to an NCAA slate.

Baltimore's class of 2008 returns to practice July 22 for training camp, with each one of the rookies seeking an elusive spot on the 53-man active roster.

The Ravens have worked hard all offseason to install the offense and defense, but once the symposium is completed, their tutoring days are over.

The learning now heads back to the field.

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