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Advice for rookies on adjusting to life in the National Football League


With Peter King in South Africa covering the World Cup, Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha took time away from his offseason to write today's Monday Morning Quarterback column. Asomugha is entering his eighth season in the NFL and is widely considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the game. He's also very active off the field, lending efforts to his foundation among other charitable pursuits. Without further ado, here's his advice for rookies, Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel note and other MMQB staples.


It's a serious business being a rookie in the NFL. Your teammates expect a lot from you. Your coaches expect even more. And hopefully you expect the most from yourself.

When I was a rookie in 2003, I was not only making the transition from college to the NFL, but also being asked to make the move from safety to cornerback. It took time for me to get comfortable, and realistically, it wasn't until my third season that I began to feel at home.

Players often get a bad rap during their first or second year if they struggle with this transition, especially if they are high draft picks. I think it's important to look at a young player's work ethic, his football intelligence, and his desire to become great. Even if a player gets off to a slow start, it is those traits that will allow him to eventually become successful in his career.

So for all you rookies out there, here are a few tips of advice to help give you a smoother transition into the league:

• Set your alarm for a reasonable time. If you're five minutes early, you're late. If you're late, you're fired.

• Be confident in your ability to play the game. I learned from my position coach, Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown, that confidence is more than half of the battle. He told me before my very first game as a starter, "If you don't believe you're the best, you'll never be the best." No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, when you believe in yourself and can fully understand that you made it to the NFL because you have an ability that is rare, you will conquer many of your fears before they even manifest.

• Be smarter than you were the day before. This is where the mental part of the game comes into play. The tendency for young players is to rely solely on their athletic ability. Big ... Huge ... Enormous mistake. Understanding your role and the role of others around you will be extremely beneficial to your development as a player. Make it a point to learn something new with each day. The game will slow down for you, I promise. I didn't immediately grasp this concept, but once I did, I felt like I was playing a completely different game. Like I had the cheat code that my opponents couldn't figure out.

• Don't limit your exposure. I believe that success is like a roll of film. In order to develop, you need exposure. Try to be as versatile as possible. Let the coaches see you in different spots on the field. It may seem like a headache in the beginning, but not only will it give you a better shot at making the team, but also it will make you a much better player. Versatility increases value. Value gives you job security. Make Special Teams your best friend in the entire world. We have all gone through the gauntlet of Special Teams at one point in our careers and many of us have made a wonderful living off it. If you wait until the last week of training camp to ask your Special Teams coach where you can help, you may be on the next bus out.

• Stay out of the training room as much as you can. Sometimes you can't help it, and that's fine. Basically, do all of your necessary stretching and stay hydrated because an injury can make things very tricky. If one comes, shift your focus to getting better as soon as you can. As they say, "You can't make the club in the tub."

• Don't count heads. By that I mean when teams are cutting players, don't try to figure out if you are next on the chopping block. Heck, don't even try to figure out where you will be on the depth chart. Try as hard as you can to keep from comparing yourself to others. You can only control your performance. If your teammate is doing well and you're having a bad day, the common thing to do is start comparing. "Well, he did well today, that must mean they like him more now. People are going to think I shouldn't be here. I wish I was doing better than he is doing." Don't let that be your thought. It will cloud your focus and your performance will suffer because you start to lose your confidence. Just go out there and be the best player you can possibly be and let the stuff you can't control work itself out. It always does.

Finally, I leave you with this piece of advice. Don't be afraid of the moment, because it doesn't last forever.

"I'll definitely be back in 2010. ... Oh, I thought for a second this interview was about me."-- Always good for a laugh, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen in an interview with ESPN's Trey Wingo on "NFL LIVE." Allen was answering the question, "Will 'that guy' be back for 2010?" Wingo was referring to Brett Favre.

"Sorry, I'm getting a little emotional. We work hard in this game and sometimes things don't go your way. I love this game, I love this team, I love this guy [Kobe] and I love what I do. Nothing means more to me than helping my team win."--Los Angeles Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, fighting back tears while being interviewed after an emotional Game 3 win in the 2010 NBA Finals.

"It's not where you start, it's where you finish."--Indelible words from my then-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to me, as I was walking onto the field for the first practice of my second year in the NFL. He told me this just after another coach told me, "I would have never drafted you." It was right on time.

"Looking forward to getting my PAC-10 championship ring from the '04 season. Thanks @claymatthews52."-- @aaronrodgers12, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, in a playful war of words with teammate Clay Matthews, upon hearing the NCAA's sanctions against the University of Southern California. Rodgers played at the University of California, Berkeley. Matthews played at USC.

I was on a flight from Los Angeles to the Bay Area the other day and I was carrying two magazines, a book, an iPod, a pen and a couple sheets of writing paper. I'm clearly planning on being busy, or at least looking busy. Two big time football fans come up to my seat in mid-flight and start asking for an autograph. In an attempt to defuse the commotion that began, I quickly signed and got back to looking busy.

The flight attendant then runs up to my seat and she says, "I'm so sorry that this happened. I wish you didn't have to deal with that. It is so rude. I mean, people can't just let you relax. I just don't get it. Let me know if you need anything."

So I tell her that everything is fine and she shouldn't worry about it, but it was interesting to hear her get so upset about what happened.

No more than 10 seconds later, she whips out her camera phone and says, "...and do you mind if I take a picture of you so I can show my Facebook friends?" Before I could even adjust to her shift in feelings ... BRIGHT FLASH! PICTURE TAKEN!

Hmmm. Not so enjoyable.

...with fictional host James Lipton

JL: Nnamdi, what is your favorite word?

Me: Infallible

JL: What is your least favorite word?

Me: Failure

JL: What turns you on?

Me: When people are laughing

JL: What turns you off?

Me: When someone is dishonest or manipulative

JL: What sound or noise do you love?

Me: The sound of 60,000 excited, screaming fans, cheering your team on

JL: What sound or noise do you hate?

Me: The sound of 60,000 upset, screaming fans, booing your team

JL: What is your favorite curse word?

Me: I'll tell you later

JL: Got it. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Me: This is pretty specific. As long as I can remember, I have wanted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. There's still time Phil. Kobe! Magic!! Jack? Call me!

JL: What profession would you not like to participate in?

Me: I wouldn't want to be a lawyer or a judge.

JL: Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Me: Congratulations Nnamdi, you've made it to my Super Bowl!

1. I think I'm starting to warm up to the idea of having a Super Bowl in New York/New Jersey. I mean, on paper, the concept is a gem. From a business standpoint, it's easy to understand why New York is such an attractive market to hold the event. It's one of the most powerful cities in the entire world. The vast array of entertainment and the bright lights can be alluring to anyone, especially when there is a Super Bowl in town. I also understand the NFL's interest in rewarding cities and teams that build new stadiums, which require huge financial investments. The NFL probably wants to recoup some of those costs through the financial windfall a local Super Bowl brings.

But man, in the freezing cold? Look, I know we have no clue what the weather will be but I'm sure it's not leaning towards 75 degrees and sunny. As a Los Angeles native, I definitely prefer the warmer climates. Now as a player, if I have the chance to play in the Super Bowl, come rain, hail, sleet or snow, I'll be the happiest man on the planet. The fans, on the other hand, not so much.

2. I think that Raiders fans and the 49ers fans would not be happy campers if they had to share a stadium together. There has been some talk lately about the possibility of the Raiders and 49ers following the examples of the Giants and Jets and sharing a stadium. Aside from the reasons why this merger may make financial sense, let's discuss the fans. When it comes to fan bases, these two are polar opposites. Even if they never see each other, the concept that someone else will be sitting in their seats during away games may not sit too well with them. This will be interesting.

3. I think the one thing I will miss from college football with the possibilities of conferences expanding is the tradition of rivalry weekend. Having played for Cal, I still look forward to the heated Pac-10 games that have become tradition every year, like Cal-Stanford and USC-UCLA. Now with the rumors of the Pac-10 expanding to a Pac-16, I wonder what will happen to those great match-ups. Will new teams in the conference like Colorado, or even possibly Oklahoma and Texas, make for new rivalries? I don't know, but for those of us who grew up enjoying those big games, it won't be the same.

4. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Watching Stephen Strasburg's MLB debut was pretty cool. The hype was there and he delivered. But thank goodness for TiVo. The Lakers and Celtics were playing that same night!

b. Is there a more superstitious person in sports than Diego Maradona? We'll see how well it helps his Argentina team in the World Cup.

c. It's amazing how the coaching techniques of John Wooden transcended all sports. I read his book Wooden on Leadership some years back and still go through my notes from it as often as I can.

d. It's encouraging to see everybody doing their part to find a solution to the oil spill. But I just wonder how much longer it will take to plug the hole.

e. My teammates and I are going to sign a petition that will allow us to participate in the LeBron sweepstakes. Hey, everyone else is lobbying. I wonder what position he would play for us.

f. If you're bored today and you can't think of anything to do, grab some wings and a cold drink of your choice, and pop in a copy of the movie Goodfellas. That or an episode of The Wire: Season 4. It should pass the time quite nicely.

g. Peter, I hope you are having a great time in South Africa. In my opinion, Cape Town is one of the most amazing cities in the world. I want to say thanks so much for this opportunity. Filling in for one of the premier writers in the business is not an easy task, but it has been pretty fun. Oh, and you have to check out Robben Island on your day off (if you ever have one). Thanks again.