BEREA, OHIO — To prepare rookies for life as professionals, the NFL is again providing a crash course filled with seminars, testimonials and advice on how to navigate the pitfalls of fame and fortune.
Current and former Ravens are playing a significant role in the four-day symposium, designed to get rookies ready for the NFL and beyond.
Running back Justin Forsett told players to excel at what they control, eat right and play with purpose. Former Ravens wide receiver Donte Stallworth spoke to the group about the consequences of his DUI manslaughter conviction for hitting and killing a man in 2009.
And former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic abuse situation was a major reason why the league is trying to be more proactive in supporting its players with programs meant to help them and policies that will weed out the biggest troublemakers.
Now in its 17th year, the symposium is viewed by the NFL as a vital first step for its players, a springboard toward success. Panel discussions feature current and former players, who talk candidly about their experiences, whether it's being bilked by a financial adviser or a life-altering legal mistake.
For tight end Maxx Williams, the Ravens' second-round NFL draft pick, much of what he heard during the symposium was familiar. His father, Brian, played center for the Giants from 1989-99, and has briefed his son on what to expect in the NFL. Still, Williams said it was good to have the lessons fortified.
"I tried to take away from all of it, from the financial stuff, knowing how to set yourself up for the future and learning from veterans on how I should prepare my body," he said. "I've heard it from my dad, but it's always better to hear it from someone in the league, a teammate. It reinforces everything he always said to me."
Following Rice's situation, commissioner Roger Goodell implemented a new conduct policy that calls for a six-game suspension for a first-time domestic violence offense and a lifetime ban for a second. The NFL is also mindful of the effect of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's murder case.
Even missteps by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- in New York Tuesday to appeal a four-game suspension for using underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game -- serve as a cautionary tale to league rookies.
Charles Way, the league's new vice president of player engagement, said the emphasis during this year's symposium is on actions, not words.
"We tell them, you don't have to learn from others' mistakes, but you can learn from others' successes," said Way, a fullback with the New York Giants from 1995-99. "It's just being more positive, saying you don't have to be labeled as a bad guy because this isn't what this league is, this league is about values, respect, integrity, responsibility, resiliency and how if you use those values how it can lead to a successful life not just on the field, but off the field."
"It's educating these guys and inspiring these guys and empowering these guys to be great men. Not just good football players, but great men."
Stallworth's story resonated with Browns offensive tackle Cameron Erving.
"It just something that opens your eyes and makes you realize life it too important," Erving said. "It makes you realize that life it too short to cut it short off something that is easily fixed."
With their symposium winding down — the NFC rookies will be in later this week — the AFC players took a break Tuesday to play football with area school kids, some not much younger than the new pros.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota -- the No. 2 overall pick in the draft -- and his Titans teammates, including wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, whose involvement in a domestic abuse case ultimately led to his dismissal at Missouri, broke a sweat running around inside the Browns' indoor training facility.
It was a welcome break from the serious discussions the past few days and a chance to process a lot of information.
Mariota seems to have a head start on some of the other rookies. Unlike many in his generation, he's abstaining from social media, a new distraction for today's players and a place where the misuse of a word or photo can have major repercussions.
"You've got to be careful," Mariota said. "I like to keep my personal life private."