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Today's NFL rookies face many obstacles
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These incidents combined with a slew of other off-field arrests and conduct issues have hurt the league's reputation. The NFL is trying to fix the problem through discipline and educational outreach. Even before the rookie symposium is held, player-development directors on all 32 teams already have conducted mandatory seminars on continuing education, career development, financial management and assistance services for those who may need counseling to deal with non-football problems. But there's also only so much the league can do. As Draft points out, the seeds for misbehavior were planted long before some offenders entered the NFL. In his new role as a National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) ambassador, Draft is stressing that educators hold athletes to high behavioral and classroom standards instead of giving a free pass because of their physical gifts. "It's hard for some guys to change in the NFL because someone has always been there when they got into trouble," Draft said. "When they finally have to take responsibility, that's hard. But if we can encourage them to take responsibility from the beginning, we'll build stronger people." The NFL also can strengthen its outreach by making a needed change in its player development program. Five teams (Washington, Carolina, Indianapolis, New England and Oakland) have directors who double as assistant coaches or hold other roles that include football-related responsibilities. While some players might not mind that kind of dual interaction, the negatives far outweigh the positives. Players may be reluctant to confide a personal matter to someone who also directly answers to the head coach or general manager. The dual role also has other potential conflicts, like recommendations for continuing education when head coaches want as many players as possible in a regimented offseason program. Christopher Henry, the NFL's Player Development Director, said the league is aware of these possible pitfalls. Goodell, though, hasn't mandated that franchises some of which are looking to save money on staffing separate the positions. "The best practice is that the player development director is just a player development director and he or she does not have another job responsibility that can impact the ability to establish trust and the responsibilities of the position," Henry said. "I don't know if this is a trend, but I know the Commissioner is very serious about player discipline and other issues pertaining to player development. We are very aware of what we want and expect in terms of standards. We'll deal with issues as they arise."
|"When something happens, it's there for everyone to see. You'd have to be half-blind as a rookie not to see that. You have to take that to heart. You have to say, 'It can't be me.' "|
| Chris Draft, Rams LB|