Twenty-four players are taking part in the three-day Rookie Transition Program at the team facility. They receive guidance on the unique off-field challenges that come with being an NFL player.
RENTON — One of the greatest attributes for a football player on the field also can be one of the greatest curses off it, says Mo Kelly, the Seahawks’ vice president of player development.
“That’s the power of the athletic mind-set, that when you tell them something they think you are talking to everybody but them,’’ Kelly said. “That’s why they are the best of the best in the world when it comes down to doing what they do for a living, because people have told them all their lives they are not big enough or strong enough or fast enough; they just brush that off.”
The message the Seahawks are trying to impart this week to their 24 rookies, though, is that success can bring unique challenges off the field, challenges that require a different mind-set than the one that got them there.
“When it comes to real-life stuff, it doesn’t matter how big you are, how fast you are,” Kelly said. “You’ve still got to deal with the situation.”
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Helping them do so is the purpose of the Seahawks’ three-day Rookie Transition Program — the last time they will see the players until training camp begins in late July.
The program replaces the NFL’s Rookie Symposium, in which all draft picks attended several days of classes and lectures in Ohio.
Now the NFL is having teams conduct the program at their facilities, which also allows for undrafted free agents to attend.
On Monday, Seattle’s 24 rookies listened to a speech by former public-relations director Gary Wright on the history of the team and a panel discussion featuring former players Walter Jones, Marcus Trufant, Jordan Babineaux and Bryce Fisher.
Among the dominant themes were being careful with money, making good choices, surrounding yourself with positive influences, staying in shape and continuing to study the playbook during the summer down time.
“There’s nothing that you haven’t heard before,’’ said offensive lineman Germain Ifedi, the Seahawks’ first-round pick in the NFL draft.
But that’s the point, Kelly said.
“It’s a redundancy-type deal,’’ Kelly said. “They can never hear it enough.”
In fact, the Seahawks have been holding weekly meetings with the rookies since they arrived May 9, all of which focus on the same theme — how best to handle the trappings that come with being an NFL player.
The power of Monday’s session came in hearing from the former Seahawks.
“To be able to hear from guys that sat in the same seats as us and done the same things as us, it’s priceless,” Ifedi said.
The four told stories of their paths to the NFL and how being a professional football player changed them.
One riveting moment came when Fisher looked around the room and noted that of the 24 players assembled, “eight or nine will make the team. A year from now, five or six will be here. They turn over a third of the roster every year. What you want to avoid is giving them an easy reason to send you home. Make it as hard as possible to send you home.”
Be in shape for training camp, Fisher told the players, “and make sure you don’t fumble over the next three, four months by being involved in something silly.”
During a question-and-answer session, quarterback Trevone Boykin touched on what Kelly said might be the toughest challenge for rookies: How to deal with financial requests from family members.
“Telling your family no,” Trufant said “is easier said than done.”
Said Jones, a Pro Football Hall of Famer: “It’s going to be tough. You’re going to have people who are tugging at you that want something.”
Said Kelly after the session: “The No. 1 thing is friends and family. Nobody thinks they have to worry about managing that.They think they’ve got it under wraps. They go from being the small kid, the young one, to now being the pros in their family that everybody turns to and asks questions of. Now they have to have a Ph.D. in their finances, because everybody is asking them about spending money or getting money from them.”
Jones told the rookies that their focus must be on what is best for themselves and their career in the long term.
“You’ve got to learn how to say, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that,’ ” Jones said.
Along the way came some practical advice.
Fisher recalled that when he was a rookie with Buffalo, longtime defensive lineman Bruce Smith told him a key to keeping in shape while also taking pressure off of his legs was using a StairMaster.
“Bruce Smith and Reggie White were StairMaster junkies,” Fisher said.
Said Ifedi later: “The thing about the StairMaster, I wouldn’t have thought of that.”
Trufant recalled somewhat sheepishly that he didn’t understand how hard the jump from college to the NFL is and said he didn’t pass the team’s conditioning test at training camp as a rookie.
“I wasn’t prepared,” he said, adding that he also wished he had studied his playbook more during his rookie season.
One objective in having teams hold the programs on-site instead of having the NFL do it at one central location is to have a more intimate atmosphere.
Trufant, who attended a symposium as a first-round draft pick in 2003, said he likes the new format better.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” Trufant said of the symposium. “They had the lights down low, so half the guys were probably asleep and the speeches and stuff get a little long. Doing it like this, you are sort of forced to be engaged in the situations.”