Palm Beach County, Florida is swarming with NFL rookies, but if the league’s newest players learn anything in the next three days, the locals should hardly notice their presence. The NFL’s 11th annual rookie symposium began on Sunday at PGA National, and the three-day mandatory event for all players drafted in 2007 will serve as an orientation and an attempt to teach the rookies how to manage their lives as a pro football player. With the league cracking down on discipline now more than ever, the players were given strict midnight bed checks and won’t even have an opportunity to leave the resort before the symposium ends Tuesday.
“They’re going to hit (on discipline) real hard with the situation with Pacman Jones and some of the other players (in trouble with the NFL),” said Ray McDonald, a former Florida Gator defensive end, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said to the Palm Beach Post. “They don’t want players coming in and giving the NFL a bad reputation.” After the players had their opportunity to spend time with their new NFL teammates, league officials tried to send a serious message at the initial orientation. Harold Hunter, the NFL’s vice president of player development, often stressed the word “professionalism” and cited players like Walter Payton, John Elway and Reggie White as role models.
“We’ve always had an emphasis on (discipline) but it’s gotten to a intolerable level this year,” Hunter said. “These guys will certainly hear that, and they’ll hear it from the commissioner himself.” The draft’s top pick, Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell hopes that the players will actually listen to the message the league’s trying to send. “You never want to see things happen like that to other football players,” Russell said. “But you have to go out there (and follow the rules) and be a man.” Commissioner Roger Goodell will address the rookies this morning.