Rookies undergo extra week of preparation

Posted Jun 21, 2014

The rookies spent an extra week in Detroit with Lions director of player development Galen Duncan, who helped prepare them for the business world, upcoming Rookie Symposium and football season.

This week was the start of summer vacation for the vast majority of Detroit Lions players.

OTAs are done, the mandatory minicamp is in the books and it’s a time to get away before training camp starts at the end of July.

The Lions rookies, however, aren’t free just yet.

They’re spending an extra week in Detroit with Lions director of player development Galen Duncan, who uses this week to not only get to know them better but help prepare them for the upcoming Rookie Symposium in Ohio later this month.

The four core teaching principles of the Rookie Symposium are NFL history, total wellness, professional experience and workplace conduct. The symposium includes presentations, videos and workshops on player health and safety, decision-making, mental health, substance abuse, workplace respect and maintaining positive relationships.

To get them ready, Duncan planned a whole week’s worth of activities that included: grooming, social networking, communication, dinning and business etiquette. Duncan even took his rookies to the Belle Isle Driving Range for a course in golf etiquette.

Galen DuncanGalen Duncan (Photo: AP Images)

“This rookie week is probably about the only time I can spend all of my attention with the rookies,” Duncan told “All the time getting them prepared for the business world. Getting them prepared for Symposium. Getting them prepared for the football season.

Duncan’s job is an important one within the Detroit Lions organization. Players talk to him about any issues -- personal or professional -- they might be having. He probably has a better pulse on the locker room than anyone else in the organization.

Duncan’s been in his role with the Lions since 2007, when Calvin Johnson was among his first batch of rookies.

He played four years of basketball at Lake Superior State University and went on to receive a doctorate degree from Walden University.

Before joining the Lions, Duncan was a consultant for the NBA and was performing substance abuse counseling for the NFL. He was also a faculty member at Wayne State University.

“I’ve been doing (player development) all my life and I didn’t know what I was doing,” Duncan said. “I’m a coaches son. I’ve always been in and around locker rooms and teams and I have always been the guy players came to to ask questions about things.

“I’ve just been lucky and blessed to have been given all the tools to be able to give back to people. Another gift that God has given me is the gift of discernment. I read people’s hearts and it doesn’t take long for me to figure you out. When I do that, it also gives me an opportunity to help you with the things that you need help with.”

Duncan handles a lot of the personal issues that might arise for players and is a sounding board for them. His office is just outside the locker room and his door, and two-seat leather couch, is always open for business.

“He does a great job of keeping his thumb on the pulse of the team,” head coach Jim Caldwell said of Duncan. “He handles a lot of issues dealing with personal things sometimes with the players.

“More so, he’s got a great understanding because he’s got a doctorate in the field. He’s a smart man that has a great love and thirst for his job and does a tremendous job. So yeah, across the board every team has a guy like him, but I think he’s pretty special.”

It’s Duncan’s job to get these rookies ready for life in the NFL, but he says it's a job he can’t do alone.

“I have guys like Charlie Sanders, who sticks his head in,” he said. “I have other players who come in and support me throughout the process. This year I had Dominic Raiola and Joique Bell speak to these guys. I have Brian Xanders come down and talk to these guys about an executive’s view of what a guy should be doing to make the team.

“Coach (Jim) Caldwell gives me an open door. Martin (Mayhew), Tom (Lewand) and Cedric (Saunders) have pretty much given me the green light to do just about anything I want to do with these guys.”

“More important than having a guy like myself is having the respect of individuals in the building to get your job done.”