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Ravens rookies report to camp after offseason filled with life lessons

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens rookies report to training camp Friday, which allows them five days to get oriented before all of the veterans arrive.

But, for most of the offseason, it's been about preparing themselves for life in the NFL.

This spring, the Ravens rookies attended 27 mandatory sessions that covered issues such as investments, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, maintaining good credit and buying a new car.

"They're not only learning the game; they're still in the prime of life where they're making biggest jumps and growths," said Harry Swayne, the Ravens' director of player engagement. "This program is kind of like a para-parent. Parents are still parenting their sons. It doesn't matter if they're making six digits. They can do some strong parenting at this phase in their life."

Swayne, who won three Super Bowls in his 15-year NFL career as an offensive lineman, underwent a different orientation process when he entered the league in 1987. It consisted of following around two veteran players.

Getting players acclimated is more extensive these days, and more personal. In talking about their relationships with fathers, Swayne shared his own experience with the players. Then, the rookies broke into smaller groups to discuss their interactions with their fathers.

"They have to be able to have a buy-in what it is they're learning," Swayne said.

Baltimore's program has evolved over the years to suit the players' lives. This year, there was an entire session on social media.

"I get them consider where they stand," Swayne said. "So that things like a bad tweet or a bad comment after a tough loss doesn't consume them and drive them to uncharacteristically portray themselves in a light that's not them."

What stands out about these lessons is they come from different voices. This year's one-hour meetings, which took place after practices, featured presentations from doctors, an author, a business-development executive, the team nutritionist, the team chaplain and A Call to Men activist Tony Porter.

The most well-known speaker was former Ravens running back Ray Rice, who "delivered an important message that included his story, both the good and the bad," according to a Ravens statement.

"We have people like Ray Rice come in and talk to us ... people who've been through the process and have rings and have money," rookie cornerback Tavon Young said. "Eventually, we want to make a lot of money. And we want to know how to spend it and what to do with it. They teach us all the tricks of the trade. It's been very helpful."