The Browns wrapped up rookie minicamp Sunday at their headquarters in Berea, but it won’t be long before incoming NFL players invade Northeast Ohio again.
The NFL Rookie Symposium will return to the area June 23-29 with the Bertram Inn and Conference Center in Aurora serving as its base. Stops at the Browns’ training facility and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton are also on the agenda.
The league has held 15 rookie symposiums, though Northeast Ohio didn’t host the event until last year. Now Troy Vincent, the NFL’s senior vice president of player engagement, wants it to become a permanent destination for the symposium.
“We hope that’s our home,” Vincent, who spearheads the organization of the symposium, said in March at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix. “That’s my plan. That’s why when the commissioner [Roger Goodell] asked that we consider it, just looking logistically where it was in the middle of the country, it just made sense. And frankly, we can’t teach enough of our history. You’re going to get that [in Northeast Ohio]. That’s the one element [you won’t find elsewhere]. I’m not getting that in South Florida. I’m not getting that in San Diego. I felt football.”
The symposium is an orientation for all drafted rookies designed to educate them about transitioning from college to the professional level. League personnel, expert facilitators, trained professionals and active and former players provide lessons about social responsibility, professional development, community engagement, league policies, workplace conduct and media relations. Educational life-skills workshops are also offered.
The symposium will be divided into two sessions — one with the AFC and another with the NFC — for the second consecutive year. Vincent believes that setup and the seclusion offered by the Bertram promoted better learning in 2012 than previous years.
“Dividing 300 men in half and teaching, we had a much more teachable environment,” said Vincent, who played in the NFL for 15 seasons and made the Pro Bowl five times as a cornerback for the Philadelphia Eagles. “Taking down the whole hotel, where it was truly exclusive, allowed us to just concentrate. And really, hey, after three days here, [the players were] walking away with three or four things that [they could] actually say, ‘This is what I learned.’ So we’re looking forward to coming back.”
Like last year, each group of rookies will participate in a PLAY 60 youth football clinic at the Browns’ headquarters and tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Last year, quite frankly, we had a good time,” Vincent said. “We felt like it was the changing of the traditional way of having the symposium of where it was located and bringing it back to what we call the ‘hometown of football.’ Being affiliated with the Hall of Fame, that was very important, bringing an element of history back.
“[It’s] not just the Hall of Fame, but with the Browns and being able to connect back to that community. Hey, I’m in football country. I’m not saying that West Palm Beach is not, but when I’m pulling up into Cleveland, I’m thinking about ‘Buckeye Nation.’ ”
Vincent said the first symposium in Northeast Ohio received high marks last year among player surveys. It’s one reason the event is coming back.
“I can’t thank the Browns enough for their accommodations,” Vincent said. “The Bertram, it was great. Nobody was on the grounds. It was all about how do we educate and transition our rookies into the National Football League.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.