NFL Rookie Symposium: Was Anyone Listening?

08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I say it every season and unfortunately it will seemingly forever be true. Give a 22 year old man $1 million, alcohol, celebrity and a bit too much free time and trouble will find him.

It's just a fact of life. I don't care who he is. It's just a potentially highly volatile mix.

The NFL every year dutifully mandates a 2 day Rookie Symposium in an attempt to educate, warn and caution new players. This education has been going on for the last 13 years.

Has it worked?

That is a difficult question to answer.

Many would cite the recent, very public and spectacular missteps of Michael Vick, Dontae Stallworth, Ryan Leaf and Plaxico Burress (just to name a few) and thus conclude that the Symposium has been an utter failure.

I'm not sure that they would be incorrect in their assessment but how many young players would have gone awry if the attempt wasn't made?

The better question may be...Is there enough being done?

Further steps to address this epidemic would not be popular with those that represent the employers (NFL) or the employees (NFLPA). Therefore, such measures have little if any chance of ever becoming reality.

On the NFL side, Commissioner Goodell has made it abundantly clear that he will act aggressively to reprimand wayward souls.

For the NFLPA, recently elected Director DeMaurice Smith is in a precarious position. If he pushes hard for preventive measures such as:

  • Year-round random recreational drug, alcohol and narcotic pain reliever testing
  • Mandatory player curfews during the season
  • Mandatory participation in formal anger management, conflict resolution and relationship counseling classes (could be performed as continuing education with college credit)

He will be voted out of a job and temporarily unemployed. Remember that the NFLPA Director serves at the pleasure of his/her constituents, the players.

The NFL and definitely the players may view the medicine or preventive measures as worse than the disease.