Goodell has message for NFL's newest players at symposium

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell kicked off the annual rookie symposium Sunday night by talking to the league's newest players about a range of topics, including taking responsibility and honoring the game.

Goodell spent about an hour addressing 252 draft picks, who are at the La Costa resort for the four-day symposium.

The session wasn't open to the media, but Goodell met afterward with a small group of reporters.

One topic that didn't come up was the possibility of a lockout in 2011.

"I opened it up for questions, and there wasn't a question about that," Goodell said.

The symposium is to help the draft picks prepare for the challenges ahead.

"The fact they're here as NFL draft choices comes with a lot of responsibility," Goodell said.

Goodell said he didn't specifically mention Ben Roethlisberger's case. Goodell suspended the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback for six games for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy. The penalty resulted from a Georgia college student's allegation that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her in a nightclub. Goodell has the option of trimming the suspension to four games if Roethlisberger does all the league asks him to do. The case will not be prosecuted.

"I talked on personal conduct. I didn't speak about anyone in particular in that case," Goodell said. "But I did talk about what I call protecting the shield. My job is to protect the integrity of the NFL and to make sure the game is as safe as possible."

Goodell said the personal-conduct policy is "designed to protect those players and their reputations, because I think we have a bunch of great guys in the league."

Goodell told the rookies they need to recognize that they're on a big stage and that a lot of people will be focusing on them.

Three draft picks aren't at the symposium because of medical reasons, including New York Giants safety Chad Jones, who underwent surgery for a broken left leg and ankle Friday following a dawn wreck in which his sport-utility vehicle smashed into a pole in New Orleans.

"I told them all about the next few days obviously is designed to help them not only transition into the NFL but also beyond the NFL and it starts with being good men and making sure that you can have as long a career as possible," Goodell said. "Then I mentioned how life changes quickly. One of the rookies I spoke to today, Chad Jones, is in the hospital actually fighting for his life. It sounds like he's doing well, but he's got a long road back.

"It's about preparing yourself for life. Football's not the only thing and it's not going to last forever. I think they understood that message, hopefully."

Asked about labor talks, Goodell said there are "really no developments."

NFL and union officials met earlier this month for their first negotiating session since February.

"There will be an agreement at some point," Goodell said. "Everyone would like it sooner rather than later."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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