Commentary

Rookies have responsibility to skip draft

They're being put in tough spot, but they nevertheless need to support fellow players

Updated: March 19, 2011, 5:39 PM ET
By Tedy Bruschi | ESPNBoston.com

There has been sizzling reaction to the NFLPA's suggestion to incoming rookies that they consider bypassing the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall. Many believe that this is a bad move by the NFLPA, that this is something that 15-20 prospects have worked hard to achieve and they should have their "moment."

I am not one of these people.

Upon entering the NFL, many rookies have no idea of the importance of the NFLPA. They might think all that is required of them is to sign a piece of paper saying they will pay their dues and their involvement is over. They just want to get on to the business of playing football.

It took me a few years to realize the true sacrifices many players before me made. These incoming rookies do not have that luxury. They are being asked to show their loyalty to the past and current players before their names are even called by the commissioner. They are being asked to have an accelerated sense of maturity, responsibility and duty.

This is an unfortunate situation. All that these young athletes should have to worry about is the game, but this is not the NFL in its prime. This is the NFL at a crossroads. This next collective bargaining agreement will directly affect future CBAs.

The players are locked out, and the minute these rookies' names are called, they will also be locked out. It is important for the next generation to show it stands in solidarity with the current generation, even if it means draftees might be entering the NFL under a rookie cap or slotting system. I can only imagine how difficult this will be for these rookies to grasp. The draft is their shining moment. It's a reward for years of hard work. It's a moment when their entire family can celebrate their accomplishment.

What these rookies have to force themselves to realize is that this year in the NFL is more important than them. The NFLPA is fighting not only for their benefit, but for future NFL players who are not even in high school yet. It's what Reggie White did and what Gene Upshaw did.

The quarterbacks are under even more pressure than the other players. Everything quarterbacks do sends a message to future teammates. Attending the draft would send a message to teammates who are fighting for your rights.

"You just don't get what we are fighting for. And if you don't get what we are fighting for, how I can respect you as the next leader of our team?"

I don't think Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton want to deal with that.

Let's hope the CBA gets worked out before then. I know that's wishful thinking, but I would hate to be a rookie walking into a locker room if the last image veterans have of him is his shaking hands with the very man who canceled the health insurance for veterans' families.

ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th-anniversary team.

Tedy Bruschi

Columnist, ESPN.com
Tedy Bruschi spent his entire 13-year career with the New England Patriots after being drafted in the third round out of Arizona. He played in five Super Bowls, winning three. He retired prior to the 2009 season.

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