A learning experience

The 10 th annual NFL Rookie Symposium ends today in

, following a four-day orientation that introduced this year's draft class to life in the NFL prior to the rookies reporting to training camp at the end of July.

Topics on the agenda included personal finance, life skills, personal conduct, life as a rookie, media policy, substances of abuse, personal experiences, family issues, player development, football operations, NFL security, success in the NFL and life after football.

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The entire Texans' 2006 draft class was in attendance at La Costa Resort and Spa and were more attentive than one might think. Just months after leaving college in their proverbial rearview mirrors, the Texans' rookies and others from around the league found themselves back in auditorium sized classrooms once again listening to lectures. However, this week they were probably paying closer attention than they might have been during an introductory chemistry class their freshman year in school.

"It's been educational as far them helping us in a lot of areas," third-round pick Charles Spencer said. "It's very beneficial. It's been a long process, but a very educational one."

The NFL uses panels made up of former and current players to give credence to their message. Spencer said some of the best speakers were players that were rookies during the 2005 season. Shawne Merriman and Braylon Edwards were just two of the more high profile rookies from a year ago that had this year's crop on the edge of their seats. Spencer said Edwards addressed a topic that he hadn't given much thought to until this week.

"Just how some of your best friends from college are some of the guys you are going to have to cut out," Spencer said. "You're not going to stay as tight with everybody like you were while you were in school."

Friendships and family were two recurring themes this week. It would appear to many that once a player makes it to the NFL, their future is secure. Friends and family can sometimes assume that they will benefit just as much as the player from a new-found financial freedom. That's not always the case.

"The one thing that surprised me the most is the talks about money," Spencer said. "When you're in college you think you're going to get to the NFL and have all this money. Here they teach you about taxes, investments, other fees and you realize you're really not going to have as much money as you thought."

That could leave some hurt feelings with friends and family that think they may have hit the lottery by being close to an NFL player. Wali Lundy,

's sixth-round selection, was also tuned into money matters and family.

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"The one (panel) I found most interesting was in regards to your family," Lundy said. "They tell you that you need to get your family to earn what you give them. That was important to me because I come from a very tight-knit family."

Lundy took special notice of something that Edwards said during one of the family panels.

"He said the hardest thing for him to do was tell his family, his brothers, I think that he just couldn't give them things, that they had to earn it," Lundy said.

Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn also was in attendance in

"If anyone in the league gives you advice, you should listen, that's my opinion," Lundy said. "They've been in the trenches, in the meetings, so they know what they're talking about. But when somebody like Warrick Dunn gives you advice, it does mean a little more coming from such a high-profile guy."

Dunn's presence is just one sign of how serious the NFL takes this annual meeting. With the pressures increasing every year on all professional athletes, education is probably the best way to combat mistakes by inexperienced professionals. And just because the symposium is being held at a resort, don't think the players are getting massages in between messages. They spend nearly the entire day in meetings in crowded auditoriums.

"That's pretty much all we do," Spencer said. "There isn't much time to do much else."

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