Written by: Torrey Smith

Thanksgiving Week

November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving is easily my second favorite holiday. You get to eat unhealthy with no conscience and spend time with your loved ones. I remember my mother getting us together to head down to my Aunt Shirley's house in little old Westmorland County, Virginia. It was always a great time. Now everyone has grown up and we started having it at my place, which is pretty cool (not this year because I'm in California). I have my own little family now, which makes the holidays even more special. I value the family bond even more now.

The best part about any major holiday for me is that it helps you put things in perspective. You get to sit back and think about what is really important. No matter what is going on in your personal life, job, or your finances, you realize how blessed you really are. You are ALIVE! This is the start of the season for giving.

I remember times when it was just my Mom, and we had Thanksgiving with my immediate family. We were really thankful because if it weren't for other folks’ generosity, our holiday wouldn't have been the same. That's one of the biggest reasons why our family aims to help others during this season because we know what it's like to need a little support.

So for those of you who give your time and money during this season, THANK YOU. It means the world to the people you are helping. It doesn't have to be a billion dollars or items, but any little thing you do adds up. Just remember you have the opportunity to make someone's holiday better. More importantly, remember that you are blessed regardless of how you may feel at the moment. Don't believe me? You are alive and reading this blog from your smart phone or computer. That's something right?

My family has a tradition of going around and saying what you are thankful for on Thanksgiving. Not that you weren't thankful yesterday, but it's a good way to remind yourself. I'm thankful for my God, family, friends, support system, all of my teammates and new relationships with the 49ers. By the way, things might not be going the way we want them to or I want them to, but I wouldn't change my team for the world. No regrets. Thankful and blessed.

What are you thankful for? 

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Written by: Justin Forsett

Fresh & Focused

November 13, 2015

This season is obviously not going the way we pictured it going a few months ago. It’s been rough. But I am staying positive because I know there is a lot of football left to be played and we have decided as a team that we can change our course. It’s going to take a team effort, and we all have to pull our weight, but we have faith that our goals can still be accomplished. We just have to go out and execute.

During the first half of this season, we lost too many games that came down to a few points or a touchdown in the final minutes. And when you experience so many of those games, where you know the final score easily could have been flipped, it’s frustrating. That part is tough because it always hurts to get a loss, especially when it happens that way. Wins are so hard to get in this league, so you want to be able to take advantage of them when you are in a position to get them.

Everyday we go out and practice and compete, and we know that we have a good team. We just to have to finish well. But for the most part, during the first half of this season, we haven’t accomplished what we wanted to…especially at the end of the game. As a veteran, I am trying to lead by example by working hard and encouraging the guys around me on a daily basis.

There’s one positive aspect to all of this that’s been amazing to witness. Regardless of how things have gone so far, we believe in each other and what we’re doing. I have been on teams that struggled early in the season, and those teams didn’t handle it or stick together nearly as well as this Ravens team. I’ve never been on a team with a losing record in the first half of the season that has so much faith. It’s inspiring!

The bye-week was definitely beneficial. To be able to rest and recover, physically and mentally, was really good for all of us. We’ve spent a lot of time away from home (both at the facility and traveling), so it’s always a bonus when you have some extra time to spend with family. It was nice to relax with my wife and kids and take a little break.

And I think the team was reenergized this week. We had great practices all week. Guys are flying around, looking fast and quick. For the second half of the season, we are set on finishing those games where we are on the cusp of winning. This next half is all about finishing and bringing home those W’s. We have the personnel; we just need to execute and start stacking up wins.

Our collective mindset is to go 1-0 every Sunday. This week it’s the Jaguars, and right now we’re just focusing on them. We only can control what we can control…and that’s our effort and play on the field. If we do that to the best of our ability, I think we’ll get what we want in the end.

I’m excited about this Sunday to go out and see what we can do when our bodies and minds are fresh. Ravens fans can expect to see a fast, physical team that’s going to finish. We’re looking to go out and get a W.

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Written by: Colt Anderson

October BCA Month Hits Close To Home

October 07, 2015

The month of October is a special month for my family, both my Mom’s and my Dad’s sides of the family. Both of my Grandmas were affected by breast cancer. Unfortunately my Mom’s Mom passed away Oct. 3rd, 41 years ago, and we always are thinking of her. My Dad’s Mom is a survivor, so to this day, we consider her a hero and a strong woman.

One way I recognize them is by wearing pink in October. When I first got to the NFL, I thought the whole pink thing was more – how do I put it? – about fashion, but I started wearing it in honor of my Grandmas. Every year, I still give my Grandma who’s alive a pair of my cleats and gloves to say thanks for being a role model and thanks for being so strong. And when it comes to my Grandma who passed away, we always talk about her and how strong she was. My Mom always talks about the kind of woman she was. It’s definitely a special month for us, and we are always thinking of them both.

Breast cancer definitely has affected our family drastically. The disease took one of my Grandma’s lives and my other Grandma had a double mastectomy. We’ve seen what breast cancer can do. We’ve seen the tragic affects it can have on families. And it doesn’t just affect women; it can affect men. I had a teammate in Philly, Kurt Coleman (he plays with the Chiefs now), whose Dad had breast cancer. That really opened my eyes to the fact that breast cancer doesn’t just affect females. His Dad is thankfully a survivor.

The NFL does a great job bringing awareness to not only breast cancer, but cancer as a whole, during October. I know we wear pink for breast cancer, but cancer in general is a terrible thing. It means a lot to me to be affiliated with a league that places such a high priority on raising awareness of the disease. Especially during the month of October, when all those women are out on the field, some that are fighting it, some that have fought it, the survivors…it makes you realize how special life is. It brings a tear to my eyes to see all the men and women out there in their pink. It kind of makes you realize how fast life can be taken away and makes you appreciate life more.

As far as my family goes, we are always talking about it and making sure we take the precautionary steps. And I try to volunteer as much as I can.

To anyone reading this that may be affected by breast cancer in some way: thank you for being so strong. What we do as NFL players on Sundays is minor to the battle you are fighting. I’d like to say thanks for being such great role models to us players.

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Written by: Cedric Thompson

An Impactful Encounter

July 17, 2015

It’s taken me a little while to get my blog going because I’ve been contemplating how to do it the right way. I’m a perfectionist with everything that I do, my blog included. And then, after having an interesting experience that really got me thinking a couple days ago, I decided that I’ll be using this platform to share what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling about various topics.

So here’s what happened that inspired me to finally start blogging:

I was coming back from our training facility the other day around 4p.m. and stopped at Publix to pick up some groceries. When I got out of my car, a man in his late 30s/ early 40s comes up to me with a pair of jeans in his hand and starts telling me a whole crazy story. He says that he’s been out of jail for five months or so after being locked up for nine years, and that his girlfriend broke up with him and left him out on the street. It was a crazy story. Anyway, then he tells me that he went in the store to buy a $5 chicken meal, but they kicked him out because they thought he was trying to steal.

At this point I ask him if he’s telling me this story because he wants something to eat. He says yes, almost in a relieved way, that he’s really hungry and just wants some food. So I tell him to come inside with me and I’ll buy him something to eat. We’re standing at the deli counter and I ask him what he wants. He says he’d like two pieces of chicken. I was like, “That’s all you want? Look man, if you want something to eat, you need to eat until you’re full. You’re a grown man, I don’t think two pieces of chicken are going to fill you up, so get what you want.” He was really shy and hesitant about asking for more. So I went ahead and ordered him a 20-piece chicken meal with a drink and three sides. While we were waiting, he told me that he has two daughters and was trying to feed them too. When I handed him the food, he was just so thankful and appreciative…he had tears in his eyes. I could tell this man was seriously hungry.

As I was getting ready to drive away, he stopped me and asked for a ride to the McDonald’s down the street. I agreed and while we were driving, he told me his life story, how he wrote two books, and about all that he had been through. At first, it’s easy to believe that someone like this was making the whole story up. But after hearing him speak, I could tell that this was a smart guy who was telling the truth.

He asked me my name and what I do. I kind of laughed and told him that I play for the Miami Dolphins. He was shocked. Then he asked if I could get him some tickets (haha) and I told him tickets are hard to come by! Before he got out of the car, he thanked me profusely and said, “Thank you so much for what you did. You have no idea what this means to me and to my daughters. Just know that you have my full support.”

This experience made me think about what’s wrong with the world we live in today. We tend to judge people by skin color or status or sex or power or how much money they make. If we can come to a point where we realize that none of these things matter as much as people think they do, then this world would be a much better place. We can’t judge people that we don’t know because we have no idea what they’ve been through. And everybody needs a helping hand every now and then.

Yes, this man did tell me that he went to jail for 9 years, and I didn’t ask him what he did because it didn’t matter. He served his time and is trying to make a life for himself. Some people end up in his position for doing something bad and some just get dealt a bad hand. The reality is I didn’t know. And I’m not saying that if somebody commits a horrible crime we should automatically do something to help him or her. But before we judge, we should look deeper, rather than judging the book by its cover. That’s a huge problem with our society, and it’s just not fair.

This interaction reminded me of something that happened when I was young, maybe around 10 years old. I was at a McDonald’s (again a story that involves McDonald’s!) and there was a homeless man there who you could tell was on drugs. He was asking people for money and this lady told him that she wouldn’t give him money, but that she’d buy him some food. He got upset and walked out. So you could tell that he wanted the money for other reasons. But you never know. She took the time to ask.

And what’s what I wish we could all do more of as a society. Get to know people and get to know their story before jumping to conclusions and passing judgment on them. Instead of judging and labeling people, how about we use that same amount of energy and effort to get to know them. I may have helped this man feel a little less hungry and a little less alone the other day, but the truth is, he reminded me of a lesson that was just as – if not more – important. And for that, I too am thankful.

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Written by: Jordan Matthews

Switching Seats

June 26, 2015

I can remember sitting in the seats at the Rookie Symposium last year, watching the player panel and thinking, “This is probably the most important part of the whole entire event because this is where I’m going to be in a year.” I knew that if those were the guys sitting up there talking to the rookies, then obviously they’d gained enough respect from the NFL and their peers to be in that position sharing their experiences with the rookie class. And I said to myself right then, “I want to be on that panel next year. And even if I’m not on the panel, I want to have done enough to be deserving of being on it.”

So I took the opportunity to participate in this year’s player panel very seriously. I wanted to share what I’ve learned in one year with a group of young men who are about to go into that. I think that’s awesome, and I looked at the opportunity as a blessing.

There are two key nuggets of information that I really wanted these guys to take away from this. First, stay even-keeled. Never get too high and never get too low. Create a positive environment that allows you to stay in a mindset of peace and focus when it comes to football and your life…and then stay there. If you can stay in that lane, then the game of football is going to come a lot easier. Go to work, study film, spend time with your family, but stay in that lane.

The second thing is don’t ever compare. Don’t look at what this guy over here is getting paid and start changing the way you act in the locker room based on what somebody else has. Don’t look at what another team is doing in OTAs and start wondering why your team is running so much. If you start comparing, you’ll start slacking, and then you’re going to find yourself looking for a different team. Focus on what you have to do and go get that done.

This next month is important. Go get your body healthy. After OTAs and mini-camp, you need a soft tissue specialist or some type of doctor that can put you on a table and tell you what you need to do during the next month to make sure you are healthy for the start of the season. Figure out the ins and outs of your body, what it looks like and what you need to work on.

Then go find somewhere you can train and vacation at the same time. Don’t go to South Beach, kick it all month and think you’re going to come to training camp and take a job. Mentally and physically you won’t be ready. Go to, for example, a place in Cali, where there’s an API, and you can train every single day. And on the weekends, spend it how you want. I would never tell anybody to go into a hole and train because that might get you too stressed out. That’s not for everybody. But you can find a nice place, where, for four hours a day, you’re making sure you’re getting stronger, faster, better at your skills and focusing on taking care of your body. And then you can relax.

I like the quote “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” There have been enough NFL players who have gone up on stage and talked about how they went broke or how they didn’t take their jobs seriously or how they had to drop out of the league. Let them be the last guys to tell those stories. You don’t have to go through something bad to understand what that experience feels like. Let those guys go through it and you learn from it.

If you take the approach of an undrafted free agent that has to make it everyday, then you can’t help but be successful. It’s a blessing to be able to catch footballs for a job. Just don’t waste this opportunity.

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Written by: Donte' Stallworth

Dear Rookies: Please Learn From My Mistakes

June 26, 2015

The number one message that I try to relay to these rookies at the NFL Symposium is that every choice you make has a consequence, whether it’s positive or negative, good or bad. Every decision you make will have a subsequent effect, so if you make a bad decision, then that’s inevitably going to turn into something that you won’t be able to take back.

And in my case, that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t a one-time thing. Like many of my other teammates in college and in the pros, I had driven under the influence a number of times. The message is that you’re playing Russian roulette when you’re doing that…you’re playing Russian roulette with your own life, with the lives of others and with your career. All of it can be over from one terrible decision. And it’s 100 percent preventable.

So how do you prevent getting to that point? Well, you have to make better decisions prior to going out to dinner or to a club. If you are going somewhere, and you know alcohol is going to be involved and there’s a .1 percent chance that you’re going to have an alcoholic drink, plan ahead. Get a car service or an Uber, get a designated driver who’s not drinking at all. There are so many different options that you have today so that you do not put yourself in that predicament. Once you go out and you’re driving, you’ve already made the decision to drive. And maybe you end up going to dinner and having a glass of wine that turns into another glass, or you have a cocktail that turns into two, three, four, whatever the case may be. At that point, you’ve already made the decision to drive. So you’ve already put yourself in a bad predicament from the beginning.

I try to stress the importance of making those good decisions ahead of time. I think a lot of guys get in trouble when they think they’re okay to drive because they’re a few minutes away from home. And so was I. I was three minutes away from home. It’s all about decision-making and planning ahead of time. I don’t try to scare them, but I do try to give them a dose of reality. And I stand in front of them and show them pictures of when I was in court, pictures of when I was being fingerprinted, in handcuffs. I try to give them a visual that says if you make the decision that I did – and it only takes one time – this could be your future. You have so much to lose, and it’s so simple and 100 percent preventable.

My hope is that I’m making a positive impact on these rookies. It’s never easy for me to stand in front of these guys. It always evokes the feelings that I had when it happened more than six years ago. But these guys are somewhat my peers. I’ve been in their shoes and I’ve been where they’re sitting. And I look at them like they’re brothers. It doesn’t matter if you played 10 years ago or two years ago, everyone in the NFL is part of a brotherhood. Some of these guys know who I am, some of them don’t know who I am (and/or my story), so I just want to get up there and tell them my story exactly how it happened.

I don’t want any of these rookies to make the decision that I did the morning of March 14, 2009. And whatever I can do to help them understand how big of a mistake it is…then that’s what I’ll do. 

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Written by: Andrus Peat

Ready To Work

June 26, 2015

I’m getting a lot out of the NFL Rookie Symposium, especially after hearing from guys who have been in the league. They’re talking to us about how to be a professional and what that entails. We’re learning about how to make the right decisions, finding the right mentors and how to handle everything, not only on the football field, but off of it as well. Rookie season can be kind of stressful because we’ve never done this before, so you have to come in with a game plan.

There are some things that have really stuck. The financial part of this is new to me, so I’m paying attention to how to manage my money and set a budget. Also, finding mentors, finding guys on the team who can help answer my questions. And it’s definitely important to use the resources that the NFL offers us because there are a lot of resources at our disposal.

Having a father who played in the league has definitely given me a jumpstart on and off the field. He shares his experiences and the mistakes that he made with me, and I can put that to use by doing things the right way. On the field, he gives me advice on technique and the X’s and O’s of football, which has been a huge advantage for me. And it’s pretty special having a Dad who played offensive line because he knows the ins and outs of the position and the game. Going through the Draft process, I was actually really surprised at how many connections he has. I met so many people who said they knew my Dad and that he was a great player who had a lot of integrity. It’s kind of motivated me to follow in his footsteps and try to be the kind of player he was…and better if I can.

Right now I’m trying to keep my head down and continue to work, learn from veteran players and improve each day. I’m not really worried about starting, what my role is going to be or this and that. I’m focused on working hard and getting better. The Saints can expect a football player who’s tough, smart and who’s going to bring his heart every day and work. 

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Written by: Jordan Thompson

Seize The NFL Opportunity NOW

June 26, 2015

When presented with the opportunity to participate in a Player Panel at Rookie Symposium, I jumped all over it. Attending the Rookie Symposium was an opportunity that I didn’t get a chance to partake in because I was undrafted. Guys talk about the event, talk about how they got to visit the Hall of Fame; I was always curious about the symposium and thought it would be a great experience. So here was my chance to go to the Rookie Symposium and do something that I’ve never done before.

There were a few messages that I wanted to share with this year’s rookie class. First, it’s important they realize that playing football for a career is a blessing. Last season, I approached every day when I walked into that facility as if I was only guaranteed that day. Not tomorrow, not a week or month from now. Only that day was a guarantee. And I was going to do everything I could that day to try and make sure I had a job come tomorrow. Never getting comfortable is what keeps you on your toes and keeps you fighting for every advantage that you can get to help propel your career further.

I was there early and I stayed late. A lot of guys say to be the first guy there and the last one to leave, but it’s really about how you use your time. I made sure I was watching film and going through the game plan over and over. That way I knew everything that was going to happen and all of the plays we were going to call. I went through this preparation to be ready when my name was called. Feeling prepared allowed me to play fast and feel comfortable once we got on the field so I could just play football and not have to worry about anything else.

You never know how long your career will last, and they always talk about using the NFL to potentially further your career, whether it’s in this league or in businesses outside of football. Everybody knows about the NFL, so the connections you can make through it are phenomenal. I participated in the NFL Personal Finance Boot Camp down at the University of Miami, and that week of classes just blew my mind. It was so great to hear from university professors from the MBA program, to have direct access to them, and to have access to guys from TD Ameritrade who teach online Webinar classes on investing.

I think if there’s one thing that I hope the rookies take away from what I had to say it’s that this opportunity is here now. It’s not an opportunity that you can take advantage of five or ten years from now. It’s an opportunity that, by the grace of God, has been given to you. And you have to make sure that you use that opportunity to its fullest everyday.

Don’t walk away with regrets or wishing you had done things differently. Use every resource that you can to succeed and play as long as you can. The NFL does a great job of helping guys, but ultimately, it comes down to the player and whether he decides to use those resources to become better…on and off the field.

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Written by: Justin Britt

Advice For This Year’s NFL Rookies

June 26, 2015

Last year, my favorite part of the Rookie Symposium, the part that really caught my attention for the whole time, was the player panels. I am a player who tries to take notice of what successful players are doing and find ways to make it work for me. I feel that hearing their stories last year kind of gave me a jumpstart on my career, and I wanted to come back and do the same for this year’s rookie class.

For me, during my rookie year, it was important to find distractions and eliminate them. I also had to figure out how to control things that weren’t issues before, like money, people wanting your money, people asking for tickets. A big thing that really helped me was leaning on older guys, like Lem Jeanpierre and J.R. Sweezy, guys who have been successful and have done it.

And I take different things from different guys…like J.R.’s work ethic. He’s my weight room partner now, and so is Lem. The three of us (and sometimes four) are kind of the group that everyone knows is going to go in and work extra. Lem is married so he was able to help me in different ways since I’m married too. I remember he came up to me when I first got there and said, “You can help us. If you need anything, let me know.” I called him every night for two weeks straight bugging him about the playbook. I credit him, and the staff of course, for me pretty much knowing and understanding the basics of the playbook in like the first month I was there. Just seeing their routine and what they do has definitely helped me.

Part of being a pro football player is taking care of your body. You are only good if you’re available. If you’re not available, what good are you? Make sure you are healthy. There are some things you can’t control, but you can prevent most of it. In college, you can manhandle almost anyone that you want to as an offensive lineman. But in the NFL, you have guys like Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware (and our team, Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril, Mike Bennett, Mebane on the inside, I could go on and on), who are as strong – if not stronger – than you your first and maybe second year. So being a pro in the football sense is really fine-tuning your skills, adding stuff to your repertoire and really playing chess out there in a game with your veteran opponents.

Whether you have a family or not, find a way to manage your time and your life because now you suddenly have this money, you have the free time you never had because you’re not in school. So find ways to manage your time and take care of your body and life. And study! Oh, and one more piece of advice based on my own experience: tell your club to take out what you owe for taxes before you get paid…or it’s going to hurt!

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Written by: Garrett Grayson

Becoming A Pro

June 25, 2015

The biggest thing I came in to the NFL Rookie Symposium wanting to learn was how to be a pro…learning how to handle yourself on and off the field, learning how to handle your money, learning how to put all the pieces together so you can become a pro in football and in life.

We have had long days, but all the information is really good. Every rookie has gone through this process and we are trying to follow in past rookies’ footsteps, learn from their mistakes and take what we can from the experience.

For me, as a quarterback, I’m learning more about how to communicate by interacting with all the guys and getting to know them. Coming from being the “big guy on campus,” and now you’re the little man on the totem pole, you have to reestablish that leadership and get to know the players. So being around the guys you don’t know and communicating with them and finding more about them is something that’s important as a quarterback. Obviously I need to get to know my own team first, but then getting to know guys from all around the league will allow me to build more relationships and lifelong friendships.

Right now, I’m backing up a future Hall of Famer in Drew Brees, so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him and find out what has made him so successful because he’s obviously doing something right. Year in and year out, he’s a top three or top five quarterback in the NFL, so I’m just trying to take one thing a day from him that can help me in my career. And he’s already been very helpful, as has Luke and Ryan. It’s a pretty tight-knit group of quarterbacks, so it’s been fun. It’s been fun to go to “work” and they make it easy to enjoy every day you’re there.

This season, the Saints can expect to see a guy that’s coming to work hard every day. My ears are wide open, and I’m trying to learn as much as I can from Drew and Coach Payton, two of the best offensive minds in the game. There’s a reason they’ve had the success that they’ve had for so long…and I’m just a kid ready to soak in all I can from them.

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