ALAMEDA – Most Raiders are on summer vacation. Last week’s mandatory minicamp capped the offseason program, giving veteran players freedom to rest, relax or go find a white-sand beach.
Raiders rookies haven’t left Alameda yet. They spent the last few months learning about new coaches, teammates and schemes. This is week is all about everything else involved with being an NFL player.
The Raiders Rookie Academy started Monday and continues through the week, giving players a foundation of knowledge about everything from to financial planning to social media strategy.
Raiders player engagement director LaMonte Winston and manager Annelie Schmittel run a show designed to ease the transition from college life to real-world responsibilities that come with this unique, highly paid profession.
The league used to run these seminars as part of a rookie symposium available only to draft picks. Teams assumed responsibility a few years back, offering vital education to draft picks and pros who never heard their name called.
“I think the most efficient and effective way for every single club is to do it at your place, because you can design and tailor a program specific to your market,” Winston said Wednesday afternoon, following a seminar on dealing with media. “We can get more in depth about the Raiders history and where we live. We can also build camaraderie as a group. They’re all going through the same thing right now, and they can get through it more efficiently this way. You can focus more on your specific working environment, and that helps (players) absorb it much faster.”
This week is all encompassing. They spent Monday focused on Raiders life and tradition, with Derek Carr, Greg Townsend, Darren McFadden and Lincoln Kennedy, among others, as guest speakers. Tuesday focused on league policy. The NFLPA also stopped by. Wednesday was about financial planning and media strategies. Thursday will focus on positive habits, substances of abuse and mental health. Friday will include more financial discussion, leadership training and a trip to Facebook.
“It helps us understand what’s going on behind the scenes,” fifth-round defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said. “We’ve never had freedom like this, and we know there are responsibilities you have to take care of. You never had to worry about balancing a checkbook or anything like that. Having these meetings, and hearing from people who have done it before, helps you figure out what your future’s going to look like in the NFL.”
The Raiders added a new wrinkle to this year’s rookie training. They brought parents into the mix. The team flew 35 family members to Alameda for a bootcamp style seminar, offering a glimpse of NFL schedules and meetings, what is involved with life in the league and the outside pressures that come with it.
“We’re trying to help players transition to the NFL and this business as well as possible. You’re not coming into this league alone. Your family is a part of it. Your significant other is a part of it. Your friends are part of it.
“Players don’t relay all the messages to those close to them, and this is a way to include them in what’s happening with a player in the NFL.”
This week’s crash course is the beginning of the player engagement department’s involvement with rookies learning how to handle all that comes with being an NFL player.
“It is a holistic approach to life outside football,” Winston said. “It’s no different that working with new coaches and new systems. We have to lay it out for them, and then it’s extended into the season, when it becomes the Raiders Rookie Success program. … This is our preseason, so to speak. When everything cranks up (with training camp later this summer), it goes live. The education part of it is critical, and Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden really value it, or they wouldn’t support it.”