ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — NFL rookies are ditching their textbooks for playbooks and getting their first taste of what it’ll be like playing for paychecks instead of school pride.
Twenty-three teams wrapped up their three-day rookie camps yesterday. The others held theirs last week.
Until now, football was their pastime; now it’s their profession.
NFL teams give their draft picks and college free agents a head start before veterans return today for the start of “Phase 3” offseason workouts that feature OTAs, or “Organized Team Activities.”
For players, it’s their first chance to see what the pros are all about. Coaches get their first look at the new crop of college players their personnel departments have studied for months.
As Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said, “It’s like opening a present at Christmas time.”
With draft parties already a hazy memory, rookies arrived at their new jobs for physicals and fittings. They picked their jersey numbers and lockers before gathering for introductions and admonitions about such things as the pitfalls of social media and hangers-on dragging them down.
They toured team headquarters, checked out weight rooms and some even signed their first contracts.
“I was like a little kid. As soon as I put the jersey on, the shorts, the cleats, I wanted to take all types of pictures and send them to my friends,” said Broncos running back Montee Ball, who starred at Wisconsin. “But it’s all about business.”
The actual practices and position drills were what the weekend was mostly about.
“You can’t really get ahead of yourself or let the expectations get to you or the pressure get to you,” said Kansas City Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher. “It’s good being here finally.”
For some, such as Manti Te’o, this weekend was all about a fresh start.