Tallahassee Journal

NFL hopes symposium sets rookies up for success beyond their pro careers

NFL hopes symposium sets rookies up for success beyond their pro careers

Randy Gregory was one of the final players to leave the AT&T Stadium field following the Dallas Cowboys’ final practice of the offseason Thursday, lingering to catch a few extra minutes with coach Jason Garrett. The next six weeks are immensely important for all NFL rookies as they head into a brief stretch of calm before training camp. But navigating the downtime might be more critical for Gregory than most. The immensely talented pass rusher from the University of Nebraska saw his draft stock plummet to the bottom of the second round because of off-field concerns about his marijuana use in college.635665171605640340-USP-NFL-AFC-Championship-Indianapolis-Colts-at-Ne

Gregory completed Dallas’ offseason program feeling good about his future. He added 12 pounds onto his lanky frame, improved his conditioning and — perhaps most important — has been a model citizen and teammate. Garrett’s message, Gregory said, was simple: just keep it up.

“I think it’s key for everybody, not just me, but obviously I take it a little more serious.” Gregory can expect Garrett’s message — about becoming a successful pro athlete and how to avoid trouble — to be reinforced at the league’s rookie symposium in Aurora, Ohio, next week. The annual event will include seminars with former players — Hall of Famers Cris Carter, Anthony Munoz and Curtis Martin among them — and current ones like New York Jets receiver Brandon Marshall and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay.

Topics include the life transition to the NFL, mental health and wellness and the latest round of the NFL’s education program about domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. All rookies should have received the league’s introductory education program earlier this spring from their teams. The next phase will include increased emphasis on bystander training — essentially learning to identify hazardous situations and helping others who might be at risk in one — and will also be expanded to include education about drunk driving prevention.