The Cardinals pose in front of the Aeneas Williams display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame during this week's NFC Rookie Symposium. From left to right: Walt Powell, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, John Brown, Cardinals senior director of player development Anthony Edwards, Kareem Martin, Logan Thomas and Deone Bucannon. (Photo courtesy Pro Football Hall of Fame).
Just a few months ago, defensive end Kareem Martin was in a safe cocoon at North Carolina, fully comfortable with his teammates, coaches and surroundings. He's since fulfilled a dream by entering the NFL, but like for every rookie, the transition is fraught with potential pitfalls.
That's why the league holds the Rookie Symposium in Aurora, Ohio, a four-day orientation which focuses on NFL history, total wellness, experience and professionalism.
Martin, a Cardinals' third-round choice in the May draft, and his six drafted teammates – safety Deone Bucannon, tight
end Troy Niklas, wide receiver John Brown, quarterback Logan Thomas, defensive end Ed Stinson and wide receiver Walt Powell -- attended several presentations and workshops from Sunday through Wednesday designed to better equip the players as they prepare for their first year in the league.
The Cardinals' septet joined the NFC's other drafted rookies in the audience as presenters dug into an array of issues. Former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth spoke about his DUI manslaughter incident, while others discussed substance abuse, domestic violence prevention and mental health, among other subjects.
"On the field we know what to expect, how it's going to be bigger, faster, stronger," Martin said. "Off the field is brand-new to us. None of us have been in a position where we're on our own. In college they'll tell you what you need to do. Here, they'll just cut you."
Martin and Powell both mentioned a talk by Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Warren Sapp as one of the highlights of the trip. Powell said he approached Carter after the presentation to gain more knowledge.
"Who better than a Hall of Fame receiver to get information from?" Powell said.
The rookies listened to second-year players Kyle Long of the Bears, Giovani Bernard of the Bengals and Zac Stacy of the Rams dole out advice about keeping your body in shape all season. Martin noted that the drafted players have been training non-stop since the bowl game, but that the second-year guys stressed to keep working so they don't break down late in the year.
"They spoke on the rookie wall," Martin said. "The big thing they're saying is take care of your body and get into a routine which will get you through the season."
Powell said the financial advice struck a chord with him. Most of the players have signed their contracts with lucrative signing bonuses already, and they were told just how quickly that money can disappear.
"It's not just about saving your money but making your money grow," Powell said. "We're going to spend a little money, but you want to spend it wisely."
The group made a trip to Canton, Ohio to tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where Martin enjoyed seeing old NFL artifacts. He said entering the room with all of the Hall of Fame busts was "an unreal experience."
The rookies have been around each other since May, but a busy schedule doesn't always leave time for quality conversation. The time in Ohio was a chance for the seven drafted players to bond together before training camp begins in late July.
"We got to really talk with each other," Powell said. "A lot of the time it's (train at) the facility and then go back to the hotel. But here, we got to know each other."
The Cardinals have their first day of rookie minicamp, 2014