NFLPA decides to hold its own rookie symposium in June

At last week's spring owners meeting, the NFL cancelled its annual rookie symposium, which is in place to educate draft picks on the life that lies ahead as a professional athlete.

It appears the practice won't be lost all together.

The NFL Players Association is finalizing plans for a June 28-29 rookie symposium of its own, which it is calling "The Business of Football, Rookie Edition," scheduled for near its Washington, D.C. headquarters. As is the case with the annual event -- traditionally a joint venture between the league and the NFLPA -- all draft picks would be invited, and the classroom schedule will follow the normal agenda closely, right down to taking place during the last few days of June. The NFLPA said it will cover all costs.

Because of the lockout, the 254 draft picks can't communicate with the teams that selected them in April.

The NFL's contingency for replacing the symposium was to expand and extend normal orientation programs held at the club level.

"We're doing this because it's the right thing to do," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told The Associated Press.

The forum will cover financial education and planning, proper behavior on and off the field, and other information to prepare rookies for the NFL.

The league had planned to have this year's symposium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, for the first time in an effort to better educate players on the history of the game. It was scheduled for June 27-29.

At the owners' meetings in Indianapolis last week, NFL vice president Adolpho Birch said the league "waited as long as we could" before canceling the event. He called the rookie symposium "an extremely complex event that requires a lot of people -- from all of the drafted players to the panelists and presenters, production people and the youth camp that is associated with it. It is really a large production.

"We got to the point, based on the uncertainty we have right now, that we needed to be fair to those who would be asked to come and participate and help us put it on. Given that, we had to make a decision. This was about as late as we could do it."

Birch said it would be up to the individual teams to help indoctrinate the rookies to the NFL, and that league-sponsored programs during the season would continue once the lockout ends. The lockout is in its 11th week.

Agent David Canter thinks the NFLPA's forum makes sense.

"I'm very happy that the former union made this decision," said Canter, who counts Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue, a fifth-round pick of the Detroit Lions, among his clients. "The symposium is a great experience for all players. For this year's class, it's even more valuable because of the lack of information. And this will be the first time all of these players have been able to meet."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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