BRADENTON, Fla. -- The NFL lockout has prevented Marcell Dareus from cashing in on turning pro, so he mows his godfather's lawn in exchange for a place to stay.
"Acres and acres of land; you're always moving," Williams said. "But it's better than sitting on your butt playing Xbox."
These are odd times for rookies, and more than 150 of them gathered for an NFL Players Association-sponsored symposium that concluded Wednesday. This incoming class is unlike any other, because the lockout has indefinitely delayed that first pro paycheck.
To make the situation even more gloomy for players just out of college, the league is pushing for a rookie wage scale as part of a new collective bargaining agreement.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and players association executive director DeMaurice Smith spoke to the group Wednesday but didn't offer any indication as to when the four-month-old labor dispute might end. Negotiations are ongoing, but with training camps scheduled to open in about three weeks, the season remains in jeopardy.
"You come out of college with plans of making big money, and everything goes on hold," said Dareus, the third overall pick by the Buffalo Bills. "It grinds you."
Dareus, a 320-pound defensive tackle from Alabama, said he earns his keep while living in Birmingham with his godfather.
"Everybody calls him 'Sergeant,' because he was a sergeant in the Army," Dareus said. "At 6 o'clock in the morning, we're up cutting grass. He ain't playing. He's crazy about keeping his yard cut. He has kind of a big yard. We cut it twice a week and trim his hedges. It's an all-day thing."
When asked if Sergeant provides a push mower or a rider, Dareus groaned.
"He's old school."
Dareus hardly is the only extraordinary athlete settling for an ordinary summer job. Castonzo, an offensive tackle drafted in the first round by the Indianapolis Colts, is living with his parents in Chicago and making deliveries for their restaurant, just like he did growing up.
He's a bit bigger now, though.
"When I show up at someone's door, a 6-7, 315-pound guy, they're like, 'Oooooookay. Put the food over here, please,'" Castonzo said with a laugh. "I make basically whatever they tip me. With my parents, I'm on a volunteer basis. I'm living like I'm still a college kid -- there's no money to spend."
"My mom is rooting for the lockout to continue," Young said. "But my dad is saying, 'Get out of the house, son.' He's looking up the latest on the lockout every day and telling me updates."
Miller and Ponder said they're getting by partly because they made money doing rookie-card signings.
"I saved it up, because I didn't know how long this lockout was going to be," said Miller, the second overall pick by the Denver Broncos. "So I've got a couple of dollars in my pocket."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press