Latest from the NFL Rookie Symposium

Random gatherings from my random mind at the NFL Rookie Symposium:

  • Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, the team’s first-round draft pick, said the hamstring that he injured during offseason workouts is at about “80” percent strength. He expects to be at 100 percent by the start of training camp. Heyward-Bey said he went through a lot of offseason drills despite not being at full strength to show coaches and teammates that he could play through pain.
  • The 250-plus players at the symposium are receiving a non-stop dose of information from league and union officials, psychologists, NFL security and current and former players. The one piece of advice that seems to have really resonated was offered by Falcons WR Harry Douglas as part of a wide-ranging panel discussion Sunday night.
    Douglas told a packed ballroom audience that some of the biggest transitions from college to the pros involve keeping hangers-on at a distance and being mindful of money. As an example, Douglas tugged at the gaudy earrings in each of his earlobes and told players that even though it looked like he was sporting major blingage, he actually bought the faux jewelry at “Claire’s in the mall.” He later confirmed that the earrings are fake diamonds, but because he plays in the NFL, people think they’re authentic.
  • All of the rookies are wearing some sort of apparel that identifies them with their respective teams. Most are T-shirts or short-sleeve golf shirts. The Chicago Bears’ rookies are sporting the freshest gear of everyone, though. They’re wearing grey, button-up baseball jerseys with “Chicago” across the front and the classic Bears “C” on the back. Sweet. Need to get me one of those.
  • My best moment thus far was having a brief chat with Ravens director of player development O.J. Brigance. I covered O.J. back in the mid-90s, when he was a special-teams player with the Dolphins and I worked with The Miami Herald. O.J. and I would chop it up back in the day about some football-related stuff, but mainly we’d talk about our families. He would jokingly refer to himself as a wise man, citing his “grey beard of wisdom,” as his status symbol.
    O.J. is in a wheelchair now, having been stricken with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2007. He has been featured in several television and print pieces and probably is more known now than he was as a player. When we saw each other, we both smiled, and he said, “Long time.” Then, referencing the old days, he said, “I shaved.”
    His body might be a shell of what it once was, but O.J. Brigance is still a special man.

— Steve Wyche

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