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Rookie diary: Assets and facets

Michael Johnson

Posted: 8:40 a.m.

Michael Johnson is our man on the ground at the NFL Rookies Symposium in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He'll be giving a daily report on the most covered orientation in American business that opened Sunday night and continues Monday through Wednesday in meetings lasting daily from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.*

The theme of the conference's financial aspect is assets and liabilities, but even before he heard it Johnson was cultivating his assets in a 6 a.m. workout with roommate Clinton McDonald.

They bumped into Bengals director of player relations Eric Ball and director of security Rusty Guy but didn't see any other teammates. They could have gone into the workout room before or after because the pair took an abbreviated run with some aerobics and weights before grabbing some breakfast and getting to the NFL Players Association meeting.

"They basically just went over our rights and benefits," Johnson said. "And the policies about drug and alcohol and what kind of harm they can do. Yeah, I had pretty much heard that all before."

But there was one new twist.

"They said alcohol can harm your peripheral vision and for a football player, that's everything," Johnson said. "I had never heard that before."

Johnson said the NFLPA outlined the rookie pool concept but didn't delve into the looming expiration of the collective bargaining agreement that triggers a season without a salary cap in 2010.

But they did get plenty of numbers in the evening session that dealt with liabilities and assets. The Bengals, again teamed with the Dolphins and Raiders, worked together on a sample budget for their rookie season.

"It went fast, but it didn't bother me because I'm kind of a penny pincher," Johnson says. "Actually, I've got less money now than I did last year. In college, everything is pretty much provided for. But now this is the first time I've had to pay rent, buy food, figure out what the utilities are going to be."

Johnson says he hasn't taken a line of credit to get him through his contract agreement, so since the draft he's been feeling a bit of a crunch. But he says he's confident he'll be able to pay off the insurance he took out for his junior and senior seasons, as well as paying his agent.

"I've been doing it for the last four years," he said of pinching. "I can do it for the next 20 days. The only thing I'm focused on is being as ready as possible for training camp. I know it will take care of itself.

"That's something else they're talking about here: Don't wait to pay off your debts. Owe no man anything. But that's the way my parents raised me, anyway."

Johnson says the idea has been to show the players they don't have as much money as they think and it can go fast without realizing it. There was more play-acting and Johnson had a cameo appearance.

"I had to tell a pretty girl I couldn't buy her a dress," Johnson said. "That's what a lot of this stuff was about; handling personal business with family and friends. You have to let people know that you can't spend everything. But Rusty and E.B. had gone over a lot of this in Cincinnati during the OTAs."

Asked about the dream house Johnson laughed and said, "That's for the second contract."

As befitting a rookie symposium that is emphasizing discipline and control, Johnson says of the hotel, "We're in total lockdown here. Security at the elevators and all that."

After the first full day of the conference, bed check got pushed up a half hour to midnight. But the night before Johnson never saw 11:30 p.m.

"I was out cold," he says. "They've jammed a lot into every day and Clinton had to tell me they checked in."

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