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Fisher hammers home powerful lessons for rookies

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Jeff Fisher was on stage, doing what comes naturally. He was coaching.

With a large group of football players gathered in front of him, Fisher was very much in his element. He offered references to "A gaps" and "strong-side" running and "play-action" passing and "post" routes and "three-deep" coverage, but he wasn't discussing the finer points of the game as it's played inside the white lines.

The Tennessee Titans' coach was telling members of the 2008 NFL Draft class how to avoid the many pitfalls awaiting them outside those lines.

As a former NFL player and with 13-plus years of head-coaching experience in the league, Fisher was someone who merited the players' undivided attention. In a frank, no-holds-barred address during the rookie symposium at La Costa Resort & Spa, he provided a thorough breakdown of the types of distractions they can encounter as pros. At the very least, some can prove embarrassing. At the very most, some can ruin a career.

One of Fisher's prime examples of unwanted embarrassment involved his most famous player -- quarterback Vince Young. He never mentioned Young by name. He simply showed slides that appeared on two giant screens flanking the stage. The first showed Young posing with fellow participants in a panel discussion during last year's rookie symposium.

"You recognize the second guy from the left?" Fisher said. "He was here last year, and you know what he talked about? He talked about off-the-field (behavior) ... how you guys have got to be really careful because ... one little cell phone camera that sends out (photos or video from) here and it ends up here. And guess what? You're embarrassed."

Fisher then called for the next slide, taken from photos that recently circulated on the Internet. It was of Young, shirtless and partying. Additional slides showed the quarterback drinking what appeared to be tequila straight from a bottle.

Fisher's point: The only time an NFL player has a chance to ever truly be considered "off the field" is when he is in the privacy of his home, without any cameras capturing him in compromising situations.

"You are 'on the field' when you walk out the front door," Fisher said.

He used several other examples from his own team to illustrate the various ways an NFL player can be thrown off his game. Fisher shared stories about:

» An unnamed player who, in 1994, admitted to having a gun that he considered using while being robbed at gunpoint by two men at his apartment. Fisher had the player turn the gun over to him. A year later, the player was released and six months after that, he wound up in jail because a firearm discharged in his apartment during an altercation.

» A "dumb" receiver on his team (Brandon Jones) who was recently arrested at Nashville International Airport for having a loaded firearm in a carry-on bag. Jones said he forgot that he had left the handgun in the bag when packing. "You know what he has to do?" Fisher told the rookies. "He has to make three court appearances between the middle of August and Oct. 1. Now what kind of distraction do you think that's going to be for him?"

» An unnamed player who, after violating the league's substance-abuse policy, decided to retire because he could no longer handle the humiliation of being subjected to repeated screening. "If you get caught, you are going to be subject to reasonable-cause testing," Fisher said. "Guess what? You are going to be naked ... three times a week with the collector. (The player) missed the tests and was tired of taking the tests, so he left."

» An unnamed player who became so overwhelmed from the stress over his family's demands on his finances he actually told Fisher at halftime of a game that he didn't want to play in the second half. "His family was in for the holidays and they were having money meetings because the family wasn't getting enough money," the coach said. "Family, friends, and finances. It's not a good combination. You need help. Find a professional. It's OK to take care of mama. She raised you. She stood by you your whole life. Get her the Escalade, but guess what? On Friday before a big game she's going to decide she wants a different color Escalade -- NOW! And you can't tell her no. So get somebody qualified to say no to those things (on your behalf)."

» A player on the street right now (former Bills, Titans and Broncos running back Travis Henry) with eight kids from eight different mothers.

» An unnamed special-teams player who, soon after learning he had paid $90,000 in child support for a baby that DNA testing proved wasn't his, lost control during a game in Cleveland. "There's some pushing and shoving around the pile, and he snaps," Fisher recalled. "He's got a lot on his mind. He's hurting inside. He kicks a guy in the head and he's ejected from the ballgame. Now he's paying additional money in a league fine for being kicked out of a ballgame. The club also fined him."

Fisher pounded home two more points to the rookies: The importance of listening rather than hearing and the importance of sticking with their offseason conditioning between now and training camp.

Fisher shared a story about a left cornerback he had on his team who, during a timeout of a game against the Washington Redskins in 2003, told the defensive coordinator he understood a coverage the Titans would be using on the next play. But the cornerback actually did not understand his assignment, reacted incorrectly, and that resulted in a wide-open Redskins receiver catching a touchdown pass. The Titans wound up losing by three points.

"After the game, my owner (Bud Adams) told a reporter, 'We got out-coached,'" Fisher said. "The left corner? He wasn't listening. He was hearing. 'I gotcha, coach. I gotcha, coach.' But he wasn't listening. Don't be one of those guys who says, 'I gotcha, coach.'"

And don't, Fisher told the rookies, be the player who hits the snooze button on his alarm clock that was set the night before to get him up for his morning workout.

"When you start hammering on that snooze button, 10 o'clock rolls around and you'll push your workout into the afternoon," Fisher said. "I know. I've been there. And if something else better comes up in the afternoon, (you'll say) you're going to double up (on your workout) tomorrow.

"Don't hit the snooze button!"

Sound advice about the game that's played outside the white lines.

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