The NFL Rookie symposium is happening right now and all of the Raiders' drafted rookies are in attendance. At the event, players learn a lot from those players who made mistakes and are told "Don't be like me". That works for some and does not for others. But never before have they had a more unsettling lesson than they got today.
"We had Adam Jones and Maurice Clarett come speak to us and they talked about the decisions they've made in the past and how all their bad decisions led them to where they are now," Raiders round 7 pick, Brice Butler, said in his symposium blog. "Even though they're still not perfect now, they're happy it happened to them when it happened so now they can look back at it and know what not to do and what to do in certain situations."
Two days later, the rookies stopped what they were doing at the symposium to watch Aaron Hernandez stand cuffed before a judge in Boston Massachusetts where he was officially charged with first degree murder and five weapons charges.
Nothing these former players like Maurice Clarett and Michael Vick can tell them will shake them as much as real life playing itself out in front of them on the very day they are learning about how to live out their dreams in the NFL.
To add to the lesson, Hernandez was not given the courtesy of turning himself in and sneaking in a back door in a nice suit. He was placed under arrest and cuffed behind his back at the front door of his home wearing nothing but a pair of basketball shorts. He then had a white T-shirt pulled over his cuffed hands and put in a squad car for all to see. The Boston police were sending a message, saying essentially ‘Let this be a lesson to all of you.'
That lesson is, NFL players are not above the law and will not get babied or preferential treatment. The NFL sees the value in showing the rookies this play itself out and put the live coverage on every television at the rookie symposium. If even one more of these rookies receives that message, it was a smart move.
The Raiders had ten draft picks this year and most of them were chosen in part because they were high character individuals. The lone exception, is Stacy McGee, who bucks that trend in a big way. McGee had several run ins with the law in college including a DUI arrest, a citation for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, plus suspensions from the Oklahoma Sooner football team for breaking team rules.
Hernandez had his issues in college, most of which involved with running with a bad crowd and some marijuana use, which had some teams hesitant to take a chance on him. The Patriots thought, as they typically do, that their coaches and locker room could somehow keep Hernandez on the straight and narrow. They were wrong.
I am in NO WAY comparing McGee or any other player who got into trouble in college to Hernandez. No one could have anticipated Hernandez would be arrested for murder based upon his college issues***
***As it is turning out, there were a lot more people who did have serious reservations about Hernandez and some team removed him from their boards altogether due to some shady gang connections and character issues.
The correlation is simply that the hope for rookies like McGee or even those rookies who have never been in trouble, is that Hernandez's arrest is the ultimate cautionary tale and they are ‘scared straight' in a way that no hindsight by current and former players can offer.
What the NFL wants from these players is foresight. Hernandez was released by the Patriots immediately following his arrest. He is now being held without bail on first degree murder and five other weapons charges. These rookies just got an unprecedented lesson. Welcome to the NFL.