By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
Welcome, rookies: All 256 players taken in the 2014 NFL draft will descend on The Bertram Hotel in Aurora this week for the 17th annual Rookie Symposium, a.k.a. the “Don’t Do This” Conference.
The rookies are divided into NFC and AFC groupings. Each group spends four days listening to lectures on NFL history, total wellness, professional experience and workplace conduct.
NFC rookies arrived on Sunday; AFC rookies arrive on Wednesday. Each group’s four-day symposium includes a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and a morning participation at the NFL Play 60 youth clinic at Browns headquarters. NFC rookies host the clinic on Tuesday; AFC rookies on Friday.
The symposium is a great effort by the NFL to educate incoming players on the perils of newfound fame and riches and the importance of making good choices. Players hear horror stories from active and former players about their careers railroaded by DUIs and drug abuse and small fortunes wasted on impulse purchases and taking care of personal entourages.
There are no special breakout sessions on the do’s-and-don’ts of champagne spraying, inflatable swan floating or money-phone etiquette. Johnny Manziel, who may be an expert on such things, will not be a keynote speaker but is scheduled to be in attendance with AFC rookies.
On Sunday, I asked Dwight Hollier, a former NFL player and currently director of transition and clinical services for NFL Player Engagement, if Manziel can be “saved” from self-destruction through this program.
“I don’t want to single out any one person,” said Hollier, who is a licensed professional counselor. “I think every year these programs are effective. They don’t hit every guy but I believe we are effective in letting all the rookies recognize the resources we offer.”
I asked Hollier how long it generally takes for a new player in the NFL to “get it” – to realize how to conduct himself in a professional manner on and off the field.
“It’s hard to predict,” Hollier said. “There are guys who conduct themselves with maturity from Day One. Everybody is different.
“When I was a rookie, I acted and carried myself the way I thought I should carry myself. It took a few years for the experienced players to get through to me. I was just immature and naïve and figuring things out on my own. I didn’t do anything outrageous, but it just took time to be able to make the right choices.”
The hope is that somebody will get through to Manziel this week. Brady Quinn is not one of the speakers, by the way, but his message would suffice.
Training camp schedule: The Browns released their training camp schedule and procedures for registering for a free ticket to gain admittance. Here are the highlights:
* Because of limited capacity at the team’s headquarters, fans will have to register for a ticket at www.clevelandbrowns.com/BrownsCamp14. Fans can register for up to four open practices with a maximum of five guests starting on Thursday. Fans will not be admitted without a ticket.
* There are 13 practices open to fans. All but one are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m.
* Dates of the open practices in Berea are: July 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, August 1, 4, 5, 6, 11 (10:10 a.m. start), 12, 13 and 15.
Family Day in Akron: Because of the renovations ongoing in FirstEnergy Stadium, the annual Family Night has been remade as Family Day and will be held in InfoCision Stadium in Akron on Saturday, August 2.
Information regarding tickets for Family Day will be released by the Browns at a later date.
The team’s official release of the training camp schedule refers to Family Day as a “team scrimmage.” This would be a departure from the most recent two Browns coaches – Rob Chudzinski and Pat Shurmur – who conducted “Family Night” as mere glorified practices. Eric Mangini was the last Browns coach to split his 90-player squad into two teams and simulate a game-like scrimmage.
The team's release would indicate that Mike Pettine sees the benefit in breaking away from the routine of training camp practices and giving the players -- and fans -- something different in the form of a scrimmage. Some day -- if the Browns can stay with the same coach for more than a year or two -- the team will join the majority of the NFL in conducting joint practices or scrimmages with other teams in training camp.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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