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Front Office Fiction: Welcome Rookies!

Joe Robbins

She looked out at the somewhat wary faces in the the conference room. Some were seated around the massive table that seated 24, while others leaned against the walls...

"I'd like to call this special Rams' rookie symposium to order," Derinda said into the microphone. Most of her audience wasn't paying attention. They were text-ing on their phones, or speaking with the people around them. She slammed her thick binder down on the podium. "HEY! Put those damn phones away, and listen up!" The room went quiet.

"Y'all haven't met me till now. My name is Derinda Platt, and I'm..." She stopped talking at the sound of the 30+ players in the room collectively inhaling, and their 60+ pairs of eye bugged out in what could only be described as fear. They'd heard rumors from the veteran players about this lady, and had been warned how bat-crap crazy she could be. "... As I was sayin', I'm the Rams executive assistant for football operations, and... Will you stop with the damn gawking at me! It's like you're looking at Freddy Kruger for God sake..." She reflexively adjusted her hair and blouse in case something was amiss. "This private lil' meeting is for y'all and I to get acquainted, and to cover some things that've been happening in the news. My assistant for today is Janoris Jenkins, who sat where you are only last year. I'm sure he'll tell you he learned a great deal..." Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Jenkins - who stood next to her - shaking his head as he smiled. The few chuckles heard from the gathered rookies ended when she reach over and smacked Jenkins on the back of his head. She leaned toward Jenkins, and growled, "OK, funny man. You're up first. Give these nice boys some of your wisdom, and if you mention strip clubs, so help me I'll..."

Jenkins stepped up to the microphone as he rubbed the back of his head, "You hit harder than my mom-z...." He flinched when Derinda glared at him. "A-right, a-right... Morning guys! Like Miss Derinda said, I was sittin' where you are last year. This whole NFL experience thing has been great for me, and I've learned a few things Coach Fisher thought you could use... Like, did you know - that as an NFL player - you don't need a real estate agent to buy a condom?" Janoris could see he'd caught the rookies' attention. Their mouths dropped open as they glanced at the person beside them. "Why they don't teach us that in college, I don't damn know... Next thing you should know is about drinking and driving, which is to say you shouldn't do it... They took my phone and put ten different numbers in my speed dial thing, and when you call 'em, these guys come out to my place and drive me wherever I want to go. They even come back the next day and take me to my car! That helps a-lot, since I usually forget where my car's parked. Before I started callin' these guys, I musta' lost like ten cars, so it's saved me a bunch of coin..."

He could see the rookies appreciated his insights. A few of the guys from SEC schools were writing what he'd said down... "Next thing we should cover is shopping for bling. The NFL has rules about wearing the shiny stuff on game days. When I saw Marshawn Lynch's tight collection of grills, I went out and bought me a jewel encrusted face mask for my helmet... How'd I know they wouldn't let me wear the thing?" Janoris shook his head at the injustice of it all. "It's on Ebay if any of you are interested..."

"OK, thank you Janoris," Derinda gave a silent golf clap after she shoved Jenkins aside. "I know y'all appreciate his words of wisdom..." She rolled her eyes, then noticed no one else was clapping for Jenkins as he walked away. "CLAP, DAMMIT!" She shouted at the assembled group. Their look of fear return, and Jenkins was treated to a standing ovation two seconds later. Derinda waved to Janoris, then looked back at the rookies. "Words to live by... So our next subject, is all the arrests happening to NFL players..." The room went quiet. Everyone had been watching the Aaron Hernandez debacle on the news. "This entire Hernandez thingy has been terrible, just terrible... Now I know y'all join me in my prayers for both the victim's family and for justice to be served honestly for Mr. Hernandez..." She waited until she saw every head in the room nodding with her's. "But this whole thing can be avoided by being more aware of the company you keep. Plus, a bit of self control and common sense wouldn't hurt either." Her head snapped to the side when she heard someone just outside the room begin to laugh. "Before I bring out our next guest," she growled into the microphone, "I'd just like to suggest having handguns - as an NFL player - might be something you want to re-think? You guys are top athletes, and some of you are as big as a damn house," she looked at the 6'10" - 400 lbs Terrell Brown. He squirmed in his seat when she looked at him, and the chair began to groan under his weight. "I know the right to bare arms is protected by the 82nd amendment of the Constitution thingy, but all you guys need to do is simply bare your actual arms, and 99.9% of idiots bothering you will run away. If that doesn't work, call the damn police. If that doesn't work, call me and I'll come out there and take care of it."

A couple rookies at the far end of the room began to chuckle when she offered her help. Her eyes locked on the doubters, and she began to edge away from the podium. Behind her, she heard someone groan "Oh God!", then run off. In a measured stride, she began to walk toward the still chuckling rookies. "Is something I said amusing?" She kicked off her high heeled shoes, and began to leap over the table at her quarry. Michael Brockers and Chris Long ran into the room and tackled her mid-air, their combined weight crashing down on the conference table. The rookies scrambled back just as the table's legs gave way.

Jeff Fisher walked into the room, followed by general manager Les Snead and team CEO Kevin Demoff. They were laughing so hard, each of them paused to double over, holding their sides.

"I've looked forward to this all off season," Kevin said before dissolving into laughter again. Les Snead wiped a tear away, and signaled for the rookies to help untangle Brockers, Long and Derinda - who was still trying to break free. The two huge defensive linemen carried Derinda out of the room as she screamed, "They laughed at me, dammit! I'l kick their rookie butts from here to Cleveland!"

Fisher looked at the now wrecked conference table, and then at the stunned rookies milling around the room. He stepped up to the podium, and tapped the microphone to get everyone's attention. "OK guys, now I hope you get the message." A few quizzical looks from the assembled first year NFL players caused him to shake his head. "Look, we want you to have long and healthy NFL careers. To make that happen, you need to address how you've looked at life in the past, and how being a successful professional athlete can - and hopefully will - change many of your notions of the world around you. There's cause and effect for the decisions you make personally, and for this team. It's time to grow up, and ask questions so you can avoid the mistakes so many players have made over the years." He looked at the rookies, who kept glancing at the conference table, and at the doorway. They could still hear the crazy woman screaming off in the distance.

"Guys, you'll make mistakes. We all do at times. But the manner in how you think and act, now has consequences you never imagined... He smiled, "One of those consequences is having to face Derinda if you screw up, and God help you when that happens..." Fishers grinned as he shook his head, then walked out of the room.