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Outside the Lines:
The Rookie Rules


Here's the transcript from Show 76 of weekly Outside The Lines - The Rookie Rules

Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reported by: Andrea Kremer, ESPN.

Announcer - September 9, 2001.

Bob Ley, host - Before NFL rookies get down to business, their most rigorous workout is in the facts of football life.

Unidentified Female - Four years of cohabitation in this state constitutes a common law marriage.

Unidentified Male - I'm sick of folks that come in. They say that they care about the game, but they don't care about the game because they don't know what the game is all about.

Ley - Newly minted millionaires and longshots told the pitfalls of their profession.

Unidentified Male - You start getting phone calls trying to say like, man, your best friend got killed, man.

Ley - There have been enough real life reasons to make this education mandatory.

Unidentified Male - Choices, decisions and consequences.

Ley - Is the message getting through?

Today on Outside The Lines - laying down the rookie rules.

David Terrell, Bears first round pick - Over with; learned a lot; peace.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Ley - Two weeks ago on this program, when we were examining the education of a young quarterback, rookie Michael Vick was asked just how thick is his new Atlanta Falcons playbook. Then he held his fingers a couple of inches apart.

Learning the on-field drills is a complex matter, but at least there is a written set of directions. Off-field, though, has been another matter. The National Football League carefully crafts its image and, in recent years, has seen plenty of hits to that image. In the last year alone, Ray Carruth's murder/conspiracy conviction and the Ray Lewis trial. And even before those incidents, the NFL had moved beyond concern to responding at the rookie level.

This morning from the inside you will see the NFL's Rookie Symposium. This is the fifth year all rookies have been required to attend these four days of classes and discussion, this year under pain of a $10,000 fine. Between the April draft and this late June meeting, three drafted rookies had already been released by their teams because of their conduct. The one no-show at the symposium, receiver John Kapel, was subsequently released by the Chicago Bears.

As a word of warning, Andrea Kremer shows us, these rookies are confronted by blunt, real-life talk and topics. Judge for yourself whether the message hits the mark.

Andrea Kremer, ESPN correspondent - Nine a.m. on a Sunday in June, Bears wide receiver David Terrell, the eighth pick in this year's draft, is preparing to make the drive from his home in Richmond, Virginia to Leesburg, Virginia, site of this year's Rookie Symposium.

Terrell - They're almost like school, basically. Just introducing us into the league, different things that, you know, we should have our eyes open for. Like, you know, substance abuse or women. You know, just how to handle our money.

They told me if I ain't here by 1:30, I was going to get fined. I'm here; it's 1:32.

Kremer - Is this a burden?

Terrell - No.

Kremer - Or is this something you have to do?

Terrell - You know, I'm going to be real, so it's a combination of both. The time is the burden, you know. Four long days of meeting after meeting. But with the message that you're getting out of it, you really couldn't replace it.

Kremer - The 243 drafted rookies will hear from experts as well as current and former NFL stars. In their first session, they are welcomed by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Afterwards, they ask him questions on topics ranging from the ban on bandanas to his college basketball career.

Terrell - David Terrell from the Bears. Commissioner, I understand you play a little bit of basketball. Tell me about your career at Georgetown. And do you still hoop, because if you do, I got a size 15 in the room, I might take you to the court and beat you up a little bit.

Kremer - Topics are introduced by a series of skits written by NFL officials and adapted by Zack Miner, who has developed life skills presentations for professional athletes for the past 15 years. The first skit is about stolen merchandise.

Unidentified Male - I got a surprise for you bro.

Unidentified Male - Sir.

Unidentified Male - Remember that whole system you told me to check out? Get the best price for it? I've been checking it out all over town. I got a good price on it man.

Unidentified Male - You got it?

Unidentified Male - Supplied with TV, the Bose speaker sound...

Unidentified Male - Right, right, right.

Unidentified Male - ... the DVD.

Unidentified Male - How much?

Unidentified Male - Twenty-five.

Unidentified Male - Twenty-five? Hey, what's the problem, they said they were going to give it to us for $20,000. Why am I going to get it for $25,000?

Unidentified Male - No, no, no, not $25,000; $2,500.

Unidentified Male - Dollars?

Unidentified Male - That's right, $2,500 dollars man. Smitty got me the hook up, man.

Unidentified Male - Let me ask you the next question. Now that system we wanted was about $20,000 right? Now Smitty said he can give it to us for $2,500?

Unidentified Male - Right.

Unidentified Male - You don't see something wrong there?

Unidentified Male - Freeze.

Unidentified Male - Oh, what's up.

Unidentified Male - My name is Zack Miner. Three words that I want you to remember are choices, decisions, and consequences.

Kremer - Eagle's wide receiver and first round pick Freddie Mitchell sees himself as the voice of the typical rookie. He believes he is saying what others are just thinking.

Freddie Mitchell, Eages first round pick - I mean, 80 percent of us is going to take it.

Unidentified Male - Eighty percent? Are you serious?

Mitchell - I'm going to tell him to drop it off at my friend's house. I'm just keeping it real with you. That's a good deal.

Unidentified Male - I think that that was the first step of everybody just saying, hey, I can tell the truth here. You know, there's nothing going to hurt me.

Unidentified Male - Atlanta Falcons tackle Mike Thompson.

Kremer - Last year Mike Thompson was just another rookie in the audience. This year he's onstage for the panel on "Life as a Rookie," weaving a cautionary tale. Thompson grew up in a gang-infested neighborhood in the South and was stabbed in the arm before his rookie season because he refused to give a gang member $7,000.

Mike Thompson, Falcons tackle - I get drafted, right. I've got homeboys popping off getting killed. I started getting phone calls trying to come up like man, your best friend got killed man. You need to come home to Savannah, Georgia and ride, man. I'm like, I can't ride no more, man. Next thing I know I got two of my friends killed.

So because I couldn't ride, I got my homeboys killing each other. A lot of you all are going to go through that right now, or are going to go through it. It's real serious now, huh? Real serious.

Kremer - The rookies have now had their first taste of the highs and lows of becoming an NFL player.

Mitchell - Day one of the Rookie Symposium over with. Learned a lot; peace.

Unidentified Male - How you conduct yourself on the field does matter.

Kremer - Day two kicks off with a short video on sportsmanship.

Unidentified Male - Anything rude, crude or just plain nasty will also be reviewed. Fines go to charity, but I can think of better ways to give back to the community.

Kremer - The rookies then get a warning from the head coach of the Superbowl Champions.

Brian Billick, Ravens head coach - If you put my team at risk, you put my organization at risk, I don't care how good an athlete you are, you're a liability and I've got to get rid of you.

Kremer - For players like David Terrell, Billick's lecture was less than stimulating.

But the skit on common-law marriage was eye opening.

Unidentified Female - I went to see a lawyer the other day and he tells me that four years of cohabitation in this state constitutes a common law marriage. So I thought I'd just come and tell you face-to-face before they served you with papers.

Unidentified Male - Papers? Melissa, what the hell are you talking about?

Unidentified Female - According to the laws of this state, we're married. And if you want out, you're going to be served and sued just like any other husband.

Unidentified Male - Husband? I am not your husband. I don't believe this (expletive deleted).

Unidentified Male - I'm from the south, and a lot of people, you know, live with each other before they get married, and then they just go on about their business. But, I mean, she said a possible lawsuit, so I was just stunned.

Jamie Winborn, 49ers second round pick - Well, first, he should have been getting real soft right about this time. You know, like hey baby, hold on, I do care about you, you know what I'm saying?

Unidentified Male - Exactly.

Winborn - Can I fix you something to eat? Can I fix you something to eat?

Unidentified Male - James, come here.

Winborn - Yeah, I've been wanting to get on stage.

Unidentified Male - Oh good, good.

Winborn - What's up?

Audience - One, two, three, action.

Winborn - Girl, you know you're beautiful.

Unidentified Female - Why do you have to be with that other girl?

Winborn - No, no, no, no, no.

I mean, I've been going through a lot of stuff, you know, things ain't been going right for me on the field and everything. You know I need you in my life now?

Unidentified Female - What about Virginia?

Winborn - I thought she was Virginia.

Unidentified Female - Baby my name is Melissa! My name is Melissa, baby! What are you doing? I can't take it!

Kremer - Are those situations realistic? When you hear those skits ...

Unidentified Male - Yes.

Kremer - ... they seem realistic?

Unidentified Male - Yes, skits keeps us going because it gives us a chance to, you know, I mean, for us to see how we live. Or sometime later on, when that situation happens to us, how we can react to it.

You know and having a a beautiful girl up there working, so that don't make it hard for us to look anyways. So you know how that is.

Unidentified Male - I don't know about you, but I don't want to be thought of or presumed to be a thug.

Kremer - The morning session continues with Ed Newman, a former NFL player who is now a judge. He lectures on domestic violence and drinking and driving.

That afternoon the subject is dealing with the media.

Warren Sapp, Buccaneers defensive tackle - When these people are standing there, they're not looking for a nice cozy story that they can just write. They're looking for something a little controversial, something to ruffle some feathers.

Kremer - Warren Sapp leaves his session disappointed, and questions his impact on the rookies.

Sapp - I couldn't get across what I wanted to get across.

Kremer - Because of what?

Sapp - Because it would take me by myself, me by myself. Sit down with me for 20 minutes and having a heart-to-heart -- let's just have a chat session. Because the whole time, I just talked to 249 kids, not one of them said one word to me.

Kremer - What does that indicate?

Sapp - I don't know. Is the message being heard?

Kremer - Sapp also think the symposium is too long.

Sapp - I say if they're going to do it for four days, at least give the kids one day where they can, you know, let's make it an out and about in the city. Go see the sights, the capital, something. Jesus, four days?

Peter Ruocco, NFL Senior VP of Labor Relations - I mean, the whole idea is this thing is supposed to be your educational training camp. We've made it as short as we think we can make it. You come in at 7:00, you're done at 10:00, that's no different than training camp.

Kremer - But with the real training camp just weeks away, the NFL schedules a 50-minute break before dinner so players such as Michael Vick can get in a workout.

Unidentified Female - This is a sexually transmitted disease. How you get this disease? That's true. Now...

Kremer - In the evening, Dr. Sandra McDonald tries to educate the players about AIDS and safe sex.

Unidentified Female - Sometimes -- I don't know what you've learned about putting on a condom, because it's really not something that you absolutely have a textbook experience over. So let's do. We're going to put this condom on this banana. Roll the condom all the way down. All the way down ...

Mitchell - She said, one out of 50 black males have AIDS. We're like, oh, one, two, three, four, you know, you count how many -- let's see how many is in here.

Unidentified Female - I remember screaming and I said, oh God, oh God, please don't let me die.

Kremer - The biggest impact on the players is when women share their personal experiences.

Unidentified Male - Because I have been dating this guy for about nine months, and we had had sex. And I had to tell him that I was HIV positive. So I tell this man that I've been having sex with -- we've been dating for nine months, this was not a one-night stand. This wasn't a fly-by-night relationship. I tell him I'm HIV positive.

He really doesn't act shocked, he really doesn't act surprised. And two weeks later I find out why - because he had known for two years that he was HIV positive and never told me.

Terrell - That is, that is murder dog; that's murder dog.

Unidentified Female - This is what full-blown AIDS looks like.

Kremer - With these words resonating louder than any lecture, the Rookie Symposium is now at the halfway point.

Ley - And the issues and the provocation will pick up with blunt talk from an NFL veteran who has been on both sides of the law.

Irving Fryar, former NFL player - Y'all don't listen. Y'all don't listen. You think you know everything. You don't know nothing.

Unidentified Male - We're going to talk about money, a million bucks in cash, it's not really too imposing is it? Although it looks pretty good.

Kremer - Day three of the Rookie Symposium begins with a session on financial management followed by an impassioned speech by the recently retired Irving Fryar.

Fryar - I'm sick of folks coming in, they say that they care about the game, but don't care about the game because they don't know what the game is all about. I'm here because I'm qualified to talk to you. I'm qualified in every area of life - started smoking when I was 13, sold it in high school. Got to college, started snorting cocaine. Graduated from college and went on to the pros, got some money, started freebasing cocaine. Lied, cheated, stole, anything I had to do to get what I wanted.

Unidentified Male - How did you kind of cut the ties with people you were previously hanging out with?

Fryar - You've got to ask yourself a question. When people come in your life, you got to ask yourself this question - Why is that person in my life? Why are they in my life? Are they in my life to help me, or are they in my life to hinder me?

Kremer - To me, you seem not just passionate, but almost angry at times. But is that what you were trying to impart?

Fryar - There's nothing more tragic than, you know, being given the information and then you don't use it. It's almost like being given the answers on a test, and you don't use them. And that's just, that's almost ludicrous.

Kremer - After many of the sessions, rookies congregate around the panelists, seeking more advice. There's even talk of dealing with such rookie rituals as, believe it or not, buying hair care products for their veteran teammates.

Jerome Bettis, Steelers running back - If I was you, I would go talk to the manager. Tell you what, this is what I've got. I got to buy Bath and Body Works all season. OK, I'll make a deal with you.

I just try to show guys alternative ways of dealing with situations that they may not have thought of. If he went to Bed Bath and Beyond and worked a deal out with the manager and said, listen, I'm in a situation, I can sign you -- autograph footballs from the entire football team. And I'll give you two if you can cut me a deal of 40 percent off, 50 percent off. It makes a difference in the long run.

Kremer - For Saints fifth round pick, Onome Ojo, who didn't start playing football until he was in college, these four days were enlightening.

Onome Ojo, Saints fifth round pick - Someone said, "Do what you've got to do. Do it when you've got to do it. And do it whether you like it or not." Vince Lombardi, that was a quote. I've written notes, pages of notes that I'm going to review.

Kremer - By the end of day three, not all players are so enthusiastic.

Unidentified Male - I'm so ready to go, I need your keys. I want to put my stuff in the car tonight.

Unidentified Male - See, look, I'm just going to put my cozy shorts on tomorrow. You know what I'm saying -- I can do it this way. You know, just pimpin'; you know.

Kremer - As the players prepare to go home, one final session remains. There is an animated discussion over the use of the "N" word.

Unidentified Male - We in the team locker room. If a man here, you know, Willie, he and I are talking about what we going to do. And we using some, what we think is camaraderie talk.

Oh, nigger man, where you going go tonight? And he's saying, nigger I ain't hanging with you. You know, he's laughing too. I say, come on man let's do something. You know, oh, there goes -- I ain't hanging with this nigger man. You know, he's crazy. And then all of a sudden he says, both you niggers are crazy.

Unidentified Male - Well first of all, the league's like 70 percent black guys. It's going to cause a race riot, and I'm going to wish I was a black guy.

Unidentified Male - A lot of players aren't going to use that terminology. And if they do use it, everybody understands. It's cool. I mean, it ain't -- I think you pulling it way out.

Kremer - Before departing, the players fill out evaluations, which the league uses to plan for next year's symposium.

A cynic says, ah, they're just doing it for the PR purpose. Why are you doing it beyond just the appearance of what looks good to the public?

Paul Tagliabue, NFL commissioner - Well, I think if you sit in here for an hour, you can see how much the players are learning. One of the mentors said that we spend hours learning how to make the decisions that go into winning football. You have to spend the same kind of time learning how to make good decisions that go to winning in life.

Kremer - What makes you think that the Rookie Symposium is working?

Harold Henderson, Exec. VP of Labor Relations/Chairman, NFL Management Council - Objectively evaluating this kind of thing is very tough, but the numbers suggest that something is creating improvements in the players conduct.

Kremer - According to the NFL, there have been 42 percent fewer player arrests and 50 percent fewer convictions since it started holding the symposium in 1997. While some players attend reluctantly, the NFL believes its message is being heard.

What did you hear a million times over the past four days?

Mitchell - Choices, decisions and consequences.

Unidentified Male - Choices, decisions and consequences.

Mitchell - But it's good, it's in my mind. And it helps.

Terrell - You know, I didn't get a chance to use my golf clubs. You know, we was locked up. But I'm going to get a chance now. I'm going to go out there and hit me some golf balls, go to some parties. Go hang out, chill out for a couple of days, and then get back to work.

Ley - Four days in late June. Now, three days ago, with a full schedule of pre-season games behind them and about to draw their first regular season NFL paycheck, we asked Freddie Mitchell of the Eagles and Chicago's David Terrell how they remembered their introduction to those rookie rules.

Mitchell - I was like, man I don't want to be here. I'm ready to go home. When can I get home? And once I got there and just sat in the meetings and started going out with the guys and having fun, I just forgot about everything else. It was a great four days, and I wouldn't trade it for nothing.

Terrell - It's helped me out tremendously on my financial side. And you know, I'm calling people to this day, doing stuff that they think that 22 year olds shouldn't know. And I know more stuff now, being 22, than a lot of the grown men in the league, 30 that don't know, still.

Ley - But two and a half months later, do these rookies recall those three little words?

Mitchell - The three words were, let's see, let's see...

Terrell - Refresh my memory, I remember him keep going over them. You know, the first one to come to your mind is what...

Mitchell - It's right on the tip of my tongue. Consequences, opportunities -- no?

Unidentified Male - Choices, decisions and consequences.

Terrell - Oh, yeah, choices, decisions and consequences. The consequences is the big one. You know, right now, I'm a young boy with a lot of money, a lot of people want what I have.

Mitchell - To make it real short, they can sum all that up for two days, but you know. Four days, we went through it so the new rookies next year need four days too -- make five, give them an extra day.

Ley - Now from rookies to the question of age - the case of Danny Almonte. Next up we will check our e-mail on this Bronx cheer.

Bob Laterza, Staten Island's South Shore All-Stars coach - Who do I blame? I blame the Rolando Paulino League, the people that run that league, the manager, the coach. Everyone has to know that this has occurred. They know he did not play in 50 percent of the games, without even knowing his age. These things are ineligible to play. The residency requirements -- everything is being skirted around here. Danny Almonte is a victim in this.

Ley - That's from last week's program. And the case of Danny Almonte, why it happened and who is to blame provoked a number of e-mails to our inbox including this from a viewer in Quincy, Michigan - "I hear a lot from newscasters about Danny Almonte and his brother being used by adults. Baloney. Sure the parents were wrong by falsifying his birth certificate, and the coach was wrong. But Danny Almonte knew what he was doing. He knew the league age limit, and he knows how old he really is. He was lying every time he stepped onto the field."

Well to catch last week's show, if you missed it, or any Sunday morning Outside The Lines, log on to to check our streaming video and transcripts. And our e-mail address

Ley - And in 30 minutes I'll be rejoining Robin Roberts for another edition of "SportsCenter." We'll take a look at the Huskers and the Irish, all the changes in the brand new top 25.

But now from the ESPN Zone in Times Square, Dick Schaap and the "Sports Reporters."

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 ESPN's Bob Ley takes a look at the rookie mini-camp before mini-camp.
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