Along with the football meetings, the 25 rookies all attended player development sessions held by Hightower and team clinician, Dr. Herb Martin. Some even featured special guests like general manager Tom Telesco, president of football operations John Spanos, and veteran players including Austin Ekeler, Isaac Rochell, Drue Tranquill and Jason Moore. Sessions focused on anything from the culture of the team to advice and guidance on navigating through their new lives as professional football players.
According to Hightower, these meetings are critical in helping build camaraderie. Especially in these times where the roster is spread across the country and physically meeting up isn't an option. The player development sessions also educate the rookies on the philosophy of the team as it's important for them to feel connected to their new home.
"At some point, we're going to be in the building, and you want guys to feel familiar," he said. "I think the team wants to feel that familiarity from when they step into the building to when they step on the field."
These meetings clearly impacted the rookies.
"They were so incredible," Kelley said. "Getting a chance to know Arthur and Herb and have one-on-one meetings with them, it's been extremely helpful. The panel (of veterans), guys come on and give us their wisdom and experiences of being a rookie and telling us what works in this league and what doesn't. I think a lot of us rookies had questions about what the culture is, what the game is like, how do you survive, how do you make the team. It was great to get a chance to hear from them."
For some of the undrafted rookies like Cotton and Lemonier, hearing from Moore and Ekeler was extremely helpful as Hightower said the messages shared "resonated" with those who watched. Making a roster as an undrafted free agent is hard enough, but trying to make your mark virtually is no easy task. That's why it was special to have these vets speak to their experiences, despite some differences.
"It makes it easier," Lemonier said. "Some people have a tough time going to a new environment and adapting, and this really helps knowing there are people in similar situations who made a good living off where they started from and kept working. With their information, you felt like you were welcomed to the team."
"Even hearing some of their stories, especially with Austin Ekeler, he said to use this time to block everything out and study, study, study," Cotton mentioned. "I really took to that and that's what I'm doing. We didn't have (on-field) rookie minicamp and we can't be there physically, so I'm really trying to go into camp with no room for error. I'm trying to work to be perfect."