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NFL Rookies: Mowing the Lawn, Living at Home, and Saving Money During the Lockout

Shane Vereen was a star at Cal, a 5-10, 204-pound pinball who torched the Pac-10 for nearly 3,000 yards in three seasons, despite playing behind Jahvid Best for two of those years.

The 56th pick in the NFL Draft, Vereen will join the New England Patriots – once the NFL lockout is over – and catch passes from Tom Brady and be screamed at by Bill Belichick.

But first, he must mow the lawn.

“There’s one way I’m staying afloat right now, and that’s living at home,” Vereen said at the NFL PLAYERS Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles Friday. “Yes I am living at home, with moms and dad. It’s kind of weird coming back home from college. I really don’t like it that much. If we last any longer, I’m going to have to do something about it. I try to stay out of the house as much as possible, but I’m not trying to spend any money until I get it.”

Welcome to the new NFL, the home of the financially-conscious rookie star.

Vereen is living at home, as is the No. 10 pick, quarterback Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Baltimore Ravens rookie wideout Torrey Smith, the 58th pick, is living at his girlfriend’s place near the University of Maryland, where he played college ball.

Like a lottery winner with a winning ticket but no envelope to mail it in, recently-drafted rookies exist in a state of purgatory – big paychecks awaiting, but not yet agreed upon. The trappings of the NFL are still being heaped upon them at events like this, but that’s about it.

“I’m living with my godfather in Birmingham, where I was staying,” said Marcell Dareus, the No. 3 pick. “I look at it as just saving money. I’m living the NFL lifestyle now – I’m out here in L.A., doing the Rookie Premiere, having a great time with these future hall of famers, future NFL stars. This is the NFL life. The only thing is, I’m saving a little money right now. We’re making a little money with these cards, these appearances, a little here and there. We’ve got a little money in the bank, but we’re just sitting back and enjoying life while trying to save.”

That was the consensus amongst most of the nearly three dozen rookies in attendance, all high-round picks with instant marketability. No. 1 pick Cam Newton got most of the attention – serenading the crowd for much of the afternoon with freestyle raps – but No. 2 pick Von Miller, new Bengals A.J. Green and Andy Dalton, No. 8 pick Jake Locker and several other first-round picks were also in Los Angeles.

Most sported fresh ice in their ears and none looked like they were starving, but they all described entering the league during a lockout year with trepidation.

“I’m staying near college at my girlfriend’s house, paying no rent, no nothing!” Smith said with a laugh. “I can relate to these guys. Only reason I’m staying there is so I can work out with the guys in the area. But it’s a tough situation for us. A lot of people I know go home. A lot of people don’t think about it, but the rookies, we’re going to completely new cities for a lot of us. You can’t even pick out a place to live because you don’t have the money to do it. July is coming up soon, that’s when guys normally get their places, and who’s going to want to do that with a lockout?”

Smith has a criminology degree to fall back on – and “lots of friends in D.C., so I’m cool” – but most of his fellow rookies are just biding their time until a deal gets done.

Cleveland Browns rookie wide receiver Greg Little has gone the extra step in trying to absorb himself in the process, trying to catch up on all the lingo that passes from lawyers to media to agents to players.

“It’s something that you research and you know about,” Little said. “You don’t want to be ignorant or naive to the facts of what’s going on in your livelihood. It’s definitely something you take very seriously; if you want to know, you get involved in it. Guys are emailing back and forth; it’s bringing guys together. Guys are learning just what a CBA is. Most guys don’t know. I’ll admit, I didn’t know. Exactly what’s being discussed, what are the pros and con of each different situation. I think a lot of guys who don’t know, really are hurt by it.”

The players say they’re hurt more by the lack of practice time with teammates, as the rookie learning curve has become all the more pronounced.

“Even though I got (a playbook), it’s like having a science book, and you can read the science book and know what’s going on, but you don’t get it until you actually do the experiments yourself,” Smith said. “It’s the same thing with a playbook. I got it, but I’m not going to be ready until I get those reps.”

 

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