The 10 Commandments for NFL Rookies
In the book of Exodus, God issues the 10 Commandments—a set of rules for his followers to adhere to. In that spirit, I believe that NFL rookies could benefit from their own Decalogue.
Every year, you hear stories about rookies not impressing the coaching staff and not learning the playbook fast enough, among other things.
But what if there was a set of decrees for NFL rookies to follow that laid out exactly what to do?
Here are the 10 commandments for them to live by.
No. 1: Thou Shalt Learn the Playbook
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This is a big one. For NFL rookies, learning the playbook is an absolute must.
It's a way for rookies to separate themselves from their neophyte brethren. It's also a way for them to impress their coaches.
The NFL is a job, and knowing the playbook is one of its strictest requirements. There's simply no way that a coach can feel comfortable with a new player that doesn't know the playbook.
It's an absolute necessity that each rookie bunkers down and studies it, front and back, until it becomes a second language.
No. 2: Thou Shalt Keep Mouth Shut and Learn from Veterans
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Think about your job and your workplace, especially if you're someone with tenure.
How do you feel when a new hire comes in and immediately acts like he or she knows everything and doesn't listen to you or other senior members on staff?
I don't know about you, but that kind of behavior certainly rubs me the wrong way.
It shows that the person doesn't understand the basic concept of respect for people with more knowledge and experience.
For NFL rookies, the same principle applies. There isn't a veteran alive who wants to hear the opinions of a rookie. Rookies must keep their mouth shut and become a veritable sponge, absorbing the information given to them by the vets.
Even if the rookie comes into the league and is an immediate star, it's imperative for him to respect the vets in the locker room and not act like a know-it-all.
No. 3: Thou Shalt Be Ready When Opportunity Knocks
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The NFL is a "win-now" league, and, when it comes down to it, coaches are concerned with winning games, not with soothing the egos of the players in their locker room.
If a rookie happens to be better than a veteran, the coach will most likely go with the rookie because the coach is judged on wins and losses. It's a bottom-line business, and there isn't a coach alive who would forfeit a win in the name of playing a veteran.
This means that NFL rookies must be ready when opportunity knocks.
Look at what Russell Wilson did last year in Seattle. He was given the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job, and he made the most of it, winning the job outright during the preseason despite Matt Flynn being the odds-on favorite.
All NFL rookies need to exhibit the same type of savvy and wherewithal that Wilson did last year.
No. 4: Thou Shalt Not Make the Same Mistake Twice
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Coaches are watching rookies, not only to judge their understanding of the playbook and their ability, but also to see how they deal with adversity.
It's just like any other workplace. If someone is making the same mistake over and over again, there's going to be a major issue.
Coaches want to see their rookies learning from their mistakes and not repeating them. How could a coach feel comfortable inserting a rookie into a real game when he hasn't proven that he's learned from his mistakes?
No. 5: Thou Shalt Hit the Weight Room
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NFL rookies generally enter the league around age 21, when their bodies aren't fully developed yet.
But the NFL is a man's game, and in order to survive and thrive in that cutthroat environment, rookies must make sure they are strong enough to compete with grown men.
It's imperative for rookies to hit the weight room and take care of their bodies. Much like learning the playbook, it's a major commitment that can't be overlooked.
No. 6: Thou Shalt Do All the Little Things
Every year, we see late-round picks or undrafted free agents come into the league and play like first-rounders.
These players often do not have the natural talent of prospects that are selected in the early rounds, so how do they show their worth on the football field?
They do it by doing the little things—hustling, arriving early, staying late and bringing enthusiasm onto the field.
For a rookie who doesn't necessarily possess all the natural talent in the world, these "little things" can make a huge difference.
No. 7: Thou Shalt Have a Sense of Humor
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NFL coaches and players can be unforgiving, and a terrific glimpse into that world comes every summer in the form of HBO's Hard Knocks, which chronicles the training camp experiences of an NFL team.
The league requires thick skin, and organizations want to know early on if their rookies feel pressure or apply it. A great way to determine that is to see how a rookie reacts when you make him sing in front of the team, carry a veteran's pads or shave his head.
If the rookie does the task with a smile on his face, he is accepted. If he doesn't, questions might start to arise about his mental toughness.
No. 8: Thou Shalt Not Be Foolish on Social Media
If you think that NFL teams aren't monitoring the social media accounts of their rookies (and all players), you aren't paying attention.
In the advent of the social media age, there are more and more opportunities for players to do and say stupid things, ultimately embarrassing themselves and the organization they represent.
Take Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace's recent tweet regarding NBA player Jason Collins coming out as a gay man. It's the perfect example of what not to do on social media.
For Wallace, who just inked a big-money deal with Miami this offseason, it won't affect his standing in the organization. But for a rookie trying to make a name for himself, being a dope on social media could very well put him behind the eight ball.
No. 9: Thou Shalt Make an Impact
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This is a huge one. A rookie must catch his coach's eye and stand out.
How is this done? Well, it can be accomplished in a variety of ways.
Make the bone-crushing hit. Hold onto the ball after getting whacked. Prove that your conditioning is on another level. Complete the touch pass. Reel in the tough, one-handed catch.
Rookies must show their coaches and teammates that they are capable of making an impact.
How else will they ever get on the field?
No. 10: Thou Shalt Love Football
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Out of all the commandments, this might be the most important.
NFL teams don't want their rookies to be truly in love with anything else except football.
Relationship drama? Leave it at home.
Shameless self-promotion? Yeah, that's not going to work.
Visions of Hollywood? Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Rookies must truly love the game, and show their coaches and teammates that learning the craft is the most important thing in their lives. That's how rookies succeed in the NFL—by truly loving the game.