5 things NFL GM’s are looking for from their Rookies in Training Camp

As teams across the National Football League prepare to start Training Camp for the 2012 season, NFL General Managers will be looking at their new additions with an eye of scrutiny.  Fans might be shocked at the number of clubs who already know about 80% of their roster makeup even before the first practice.  Most of the lineup is predicated on maintaining stability and financial considerations.  But close evaluation will be given to the entering rookie class.

No doubt the top two or three picks have secured their status on the 53 man roster as a result of intensive evaluations during the draft process and the resulting contract that corresponds to their selection.  But the majority of first year players must earn their place on the team, and that started during the offseason mini –camps and continues from the first meeting to welcome the club to Training Camp.

While GM of the Denver Broncos, I would remind our new talent that “everything” they did was being evaluated; from the “eye in the sky” on the practice field, to the way they handled themselves in the lunch line.  Nothing would get by our staff that was looking for elite young talent to add to our efforts.  There are a lot of players that can run, jump, catch, block and tackle, but can they handle themselves as professionals both on and off the field?  These are the ones that make a lasting impression.

Here are five areas of emphasis that go a long way towards avoiding “The Turk”.

  1. Compliance – The schedule and logistics of Training Camp is not like waking up for a 10:00 am, Wednesday morning Civics class in college.  Days start early, everything is on a strict regimen and players are expected to promptly comply.  Nothing raises the ire of a coach more than being late to a position meeting or missing a treatment.  Rookies who can’t comply with the demands of their new profession are soon looking for a new profession.  Be on time, abide by the rules.
  2. Compatibility – Another word for this might be “chemistry”.  GM’s are looking for players that fit into the culture of their organization.  That includes working with teammates, coaches, trainers and administrative personnel.  No one likes working with a jerk and too many “first timers” come on to a Training Camp roster with all the answers, preconceived notions and unreasonable demands.  Find a way to fit in with your teammates.
  3. Sustainability – An NFL season is a marathon, not a sprint.  Six weeks of preparation for seventeen weeks of the regular season and another month of playoffs (for those that survive) can equate to an entire college career for some just entering into the League.  The idea is not to pace yourself as much as it is to get into a routine and rhythm that will sustain your physical durability and mental focus for the long haul.  One practice won’t get you on the team, one game won’t keep you there.  But one after another just might.
  4. Flexibility – Many rookies come from a collegiate background where little may have been expected of them other than their predominant skill; run the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball.  Rookies looking to capture the fringe spots on a 53 man roster have to show value in numerous areas.  Can they play special teams?  Can they backup at an alternate position?  Are they willing to be utilized in a limited and sometimes different capacity than they’re accustomed to?  Make yourself valuable across the board.
  5. Productivity – Ultimately GM’s are looking for young talent that produces on the field.  The consensus position on the difference between college and professional football is “the speed of the game”.  Can a rookie adjust and assimilate to the speed, execute his responsibilities and make a difference in the outcome of his team’s success on the field?

Most “first timers” will achieve categories #1 through #4, which hopefully helps lead them to #5.  But without the entire list checked off during Training Camp, a rookie is likely to get a knock at the door and an invitation to come see the GM…with his playbook.

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