Rookies Learning Important Lessons
By Zac Jackson
This report filed June 30, 2003
The seven members of the Cleveland Browns 2003
Draft Class are in West Palm Beach, FL, this
week, but they won't find much time to soak up
the sun and chill on the beach.
They're in town for the NFL Rookie Symposium, a
four-day orientation for all drafted rookies that
will detail for the NFL's newest stars some of
the major off-the-field issues and possible
roadblocks they'll encounter over the next few
months and in the years to come.
Life skills covered at the Symposium include
benefits, insurance, substance abuse, safe
sex/lifestyle choices, domestic violence,
gambling, dealing with the media, personal
finance, associations, and family issues.
Accompanying the players on the trip are Browns
Director of Player Programs Jerry Butler and
Assistant Director Ray Jackson, who have been the
rookies' "father figures" since they arrived for
rookie minicamp at the beginning of May.
Butler is entering his third season in his
current role after coaching with the Browns in
1999 and 2000. Jackson played in Cleveland from
'99-'01 and in his first season in a front office
"The Rookie Symposium is all done in a span of
about three days," Butler said. "And those are
long days. Guys start out at 7 in the morning and
stuff doesn't end until 10:30 at night. It's
The Symposium is part of the very important
process in turning young, talented football
players from Big Men on Campus to respected,
responsible members of the community.
"There are a lot of highly paid kids who are
compensated well for their talents, and they've
got a lot to deal with," Butler said. "At the
Symposium the people from the league essentially
are saying, this is who we are and this is what
we're about. It's a comprehensive overview of
what life in the NFL is all about. They try to
shorten the transition from college to the pros."
NFL Vice President of Player Development Michael
Haynes and his staff run the Symposium and bring
in league personnel, current and former players,
and trained professionals in important fields to
address the rookies. They'll be reinforcing the
messages the Browns players have received over
the last month or so in programs the Butler set
up in dealing with issues like money management,
etiquette, and team building.
"As an organization we prioritize things and try
to lay those out there for the guys," Butler
said. "What do they need to know? What kind of
training do they need? When are they going to
have to make tough decisions? We teach them about
scams, how to protect themselves, security,
making good quality decisions in life. We're
preparing them to make good choices and good
decisions and deal with consequences, hopefully
Butler said the Browns' commitment to success-on
and off the field-starts at a very important
place: the top.
"Coach Davis has a heart for this," he said. "He
cares. And because of that, it's a great
opportunity for me to do things I want to do to
help these guys and this team. We get people
involved and we're hoping to continue to
introduce more and more things to the program."