It may be hard to believe, but in about two months, the biggest controversy surrounding the NFL will no longer be about deflating footballs. In fact, there's even a chance the Patriots will find themselves as back-page news--at least for a while. Instead, a new, but always recurring storm system will emerge and take residence right over Commissioner Goodell's head.
That is, NFL hazing.
Like hurricane season, the topic always heats up in the summer and then quickly fades as the months pass, only to pop up once again the following year when rookies and veterans clash during the "dog days of summer." Arguments for and against hazing have been around for as long as the NFL, but in more recent seasons anger over the often vile acts have increased.
Many proponents believe hazing is a "rite of passage." It's a way for a young NFL rookie to earn the respect of his battle tested brethren and develop chemistry, which will become vital to a team's success as the grinding season wears on. On the other hand, critics see hazing as potentially deadly in more ways than one. For example, a rookie who has great skills, but low self esteem may struggle to cope with the humility that often follows hazing.
So, where does this article stand? I guess that's up for you to decide. If you're a critic, you may view this post and its author as you would any hazer--a nearsighted individual who has created what could be perceived as a promotional piece without any respect for its potential impact on the susceptible. For proponents, they may see it and its author as impartial--a storyteller or journalist just reporting what has already been done.
And finally some, which is where I stand, may believe there is a middle ground where this article attempts to better explain and understand the word "hazing" by using real stories that showcase how people believe the word to mean different things.
20 LeGarrette Blount Cools Off at Titans Training Camp
How do you humble a rookie who, up to that point, was known more for hitting former Boise State's linebacker Byron Hout mid-game than hitting the holes at the line of scrimmage? Bathe him in a ton of Gatorade.
By 2010, it was relatively well known that the Titans liked to end training camp with some rookie hazing. So, in fairness, Blount did have months to prepare for the moment. During one practice, teammates taped him up, made him spin around a bat and dumped three coolers of Gatorade on him.
19 Travis Ivey Helps Carry His Teammates Through Training Camp
Maybe scouts at the NFL Combine should have measured Ivey's ability to lift shoulder pads instead of weights. During the 2010 season--the same season Dez Bryant refused to carry Roy William's shoulder pads--Ivey ended up carrying enough for both of them.
Of course, he really wasn't doing it for Bryant, but maybe the latter took notice and learned a lesson. Ivey was often seen four shoulder pads deep and one in each hand.
18 Broncos Veterans Rearrange the Rookies Wardrobe
In 2012, Broncos' veterans took part in what appeared to be a fun, late night team bonding activity. Or was it hazing?
Veterans tossed the clothing owned by fellow rookies into the middle of their hotel lobby. Scattered everywhere, what ensued was a mad scavenger hunt to separate the clothing. While an inconvenience for the rookies, I'd rather try to match socks than pour sweat into them in 90 degree heat.
17 Alex "Two-Face" Parsons Arrives at Raiders Training Camp
Gotta keep cool in the dog days of training camp, ya know? And there's no better way to do so than receiving a clean cut. Or, half of one. Raiders' teammates shaved off only half of USC offensive lineman Alex Parsons' head. Funny thing is, the haircut seemed to foreshadow Oakland's 2010 season: They split their record at 8-8.
16 Jaguars Rookies Receive Warm Welcome and Private Haircuts From Vets
At least the Jaguars have a sense of humor. And I'm not talking about their 34-78 record since 2008, or how they completely missed on the opportunity to top the Colts when Manning was on his way out. However, what I am talking about is their style in haircuts.
Veterans designed the tops of rookies' heads to resemble male genitalia. What was most impressive was their skill and dedication to perfect the shape of the body part. Now, only if the franchise could focus all of their creative energy and enthusiasm into winning football games.
15 Jeremy Shockey Battles Through Singing His Alma Mater Fight Song
Training camp fights are common, but they almost always happen on the football field. During the Giants' 2002 training camp, two players found new ground to settle their differences. The cafeteria.
Linebacker Brandon Short stood in front of a team filled with star players (e.g., Michael Strahan and Tiki Barber) and ordered Shockey to say his name, school and signing bonus. "Then sing," commanded the third-year linebacker. Shockey reluctantly muttered the answer. Short ordered him to speak up and sing the fight song. Shockey abided, but finished with "That's for you and your hearing problem, B. Short."
Years later, Shockey recalls the fight that then broke out between them, but insists Short and him are currently friendly.
14 Dez Bryant Refuses to Carry Shoulder Pads and Pays Dearly
Nearly 16 % of NFL players file for bankruptcy when they retire, according to an April 2015 article published by Fortune. Knowing this, it's shocking to still here stories of rookies (and players) throwing around expensive dinner bills. Especially when it's $54,896.
That was the bill teammate Roy Williams left then rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant for refusing to carry the former's shoulder pads during a training camp practice. Williams paid Bryant back, but not before Bryant's advisor shockingly admitted, "They got the young fella. What could he say? He had to pay it unless he wanted to wash dishes for a month."
13 Evan Mathis' Rookie Hazing Hoax Was an Expensive Waste of Time
Last night was fun. Thanks for the great reactions. pic.twitter.com/WMNSXjM8WH— Evan Mathis (@EvanMathis69) June 13, 2014
The difference between Dez Bryant's $54,896 dinner bill and Evan Mathis' $64,055 tab might only be $9,159, but where they differ is in the objective. Bryant never wanted to be a part of a rookie hazing attempt. On the other hand, Mathis welcomed the idea of poking fun at a topic many find disturbing.
A week after Eagles' offensive line, Lane Johnson, tweeted a picture of a hefty $17,747 dinner bill, Mathis one upped his teammate with a bill nearly triple the amount--supposedly paid for by the rookies. It ended up being a joke receipt that Mathis posted as a joke to mess with people.
12 Prince Amukamara Quickly Finds Out How Cold New York Is
This initiation act got chilly really fast. It's all fun and games until you've humiliated someone against their will. Then it's called hazing. That's what happened in Amukamara's case.
Giants lineman Jason Pierre-Paul and teammates carried the cornerback down a hallway and dumped him into a frigid tub of ice cold water. The look on Amukamara's face as he exited the tub indicated he was not pleased--nor were viewers when they saw the incident online.
11 Meet Friar Tebow. The Man Who Fathered "Tebowing"
Before there was "Tebowing," there was Friar Tebow. The latter didn't grow to become a national icon, but the former did. It's just disappointing the popular and trendy quarterback chose not to combine both all season. That could have been fun.
During the Broncos' 2010 rookie training camp, veteran teammates showed Tebow they accepted and understood his outspoken, religious qualities by giving him a haircut in the shape of Friar Tuck. The first-round quarterback responded by saying, "I just took it, tried to be a good sport with it. It was fun, you know?"
Translation: "God's watching."
10 Joe Montana Throws Bikes into Trees
He won Super Bowls with his arm, as well as a number of passing awards. A two-time winner of the NFL passing title, Montana went onto top the NFL in passing five times, 1981,1984-85, 1987 and 1989. But did you know he also pulled off one of the greatest pranks with his arm?
During training camp at Sierra College in Sacramento, Montana would often throw the bikes of rookies into nearby trees. Why? Their dorm rooms were nearly a mile walk from the practice facilities and temperatures would often reach 115 degrees.
9 Mike Alstott Becomes Chris Colmer's Personal Mechanic
You didn't mess with Alstott, a once freakishly strong fullback, while on the field, and you certainly didn't do so off of it. Chris Colmer quickly realized that one morning when he was about to drive to work.
One day at practice, Alstott asked Colmer to grab him a cup of Gatorade. Colmer refused. That same night, Alstott drove to Colmer's residence and stole the rims off of his car. He then left Colmer's vehicle on blocks. The rookie found only a note indicating the four different locations he could find his tires.
8 Seahawks Robbie Tobeck Does Some House Cleaning
Veteran quarterback Trent Dilfer learned early that Seahawk's full back and rookie Robbie Tobeck was an expert prankster.
Dilfer fired the first shot by attempting to stuff Icy Hot in Tobeck's jock strap. Foiling the prank before it could happen, Tobeck set his sights on revenge. He bought a bottle of coyote urine scent and dumped it in Dilfer's dorm bed and along the room's baseboards. Tobeck arrived to see Dilfer on his hands and knees scrubbing away.
7 Wes Welker "Hazes" Aaron Hernandez. Kind of. And Yeah, It Doesn't Go Well
re Welker/Hernandez interaction frm story: Hernandez's response was "f--- you Wes, I'll f--- you up!" (Globe is family friendly paper ;)— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) June 21, 2013
If Wes Welker had any idea what now convicted murder Aaron Hernandez had on his mind, he probably would have avoided the former tight end all together. While the following encounter between the two is more about how veterans often treat rookies than an actual act of hazing, it's very much a part of the deep issue.
One day during the offseason, Hernandez was trying to watch film, but became frustrated with the film equipment. He turned to Welker, who happened to be walking by, and asked for help. Welker responded by saying, "Rookie, you figure it out," According to reports, Hernandez lashed out and "responded with expletives."
6 Solomon Wilcots Cools Down in His Dorm Room
Imagine relaxing in your room after a hard day at the office and suddenly you're hit with a cold, white cloud of dry chemicals. You'd likely be overcome by panic.
That's exactly what happened to Solomon Wilcots and his roommate Eric Thomas during training camp in 1987. Veterans lapped their dormitory and sprayed fire extinguishers under the rookies' doors. Wilcots remembers the confusion that quickly set in, as well as the realization that none of their belongings were covered.
5 Jeff Danish Puts the Saints Through His Own Gauntlet After Hazing Incident
In August 1998, Jeff Danish, a rookie defensive end for the Saints, and four other rookies found himself fighting through a swarm of 20 fists. Danish sustained 14 stitches in his left arm and facial bruises. Tight end Cam Cleeland had difficulty seeing out one eye.
Sound like football Sunday? Or, maybe it sounds more like a battlefield. Not even close. The hazing incident actually took place on the third floor of Sanford Hall at the University of Wisconsin during the final day of training camp.
Danish filed a $650,000 law suit against the Saints and agreed to an out-of-court settlement. Following the incident, the Saints said they could not identify the group of players involved. Then commissioner Paul Tagliabue followed up in September by stating the league found "no basis for the commissioner to take league disciplinary action."
4 The Dolphins Find Themselves in Worst NFL Hazing Scandal of All Time
Before Tedd Wells was tackling Deflategate, he was in Miami handling what would turn out to be the most serious and publicized hazing and bullying incident to date. After Wells' investigation revealed the full extent of the situation, it was actually fair to question whether we could characterize the incident as "hazing." The accused appeared to have little to no constructive or light-hearted motives.
On October 28th, 2014, offensive lineman Jonathan Martin unexpectedly left the team and checked himself into a near hospital. Wells' investigation confirmed Martin was in a critical situation with the Dolphins. Fellow teammates, Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry had been severely bullying and threatening Martin and his family. Worse, Martin was blaming himself, which left him vulnerable to worse attacks.
3 Lyle Blackwood is Unquestionably the Worst Wingman
Rookies just want a friend and Blackwood just wanted a few laughs. The former safety would often walk up to one of the impressionable players on the sideline and tell him a woman in the crowd loved rookie players. Blackwood would follow that up by saying he could make the arrangement.
When the rookie arrived at their rendezvous point, the woman's fake husband would jump out and fire blank shots with a rifle, causing the susceptible Casanova to flee. The punch line: The phony husband was Blackwood.
2 LeRoy Harris' Hazing Moment Almost Turns Deadly
Chuckling at the thought, Dolphins' coach Don Shula recalls the day Leroy Harris almost drowned. Sound funny? It's really not. But for an old timer--and many others--hazing was a "rite of passage." If you survived, in this case literally, you became one of the guys.
One night at dinner, rookie fullback LeRoy Harris refused to earn his meal by singing. The team thought of another idea and threw him in a pond behind St. Thomas University. The problem was, Harris' swimming was actually worse than his singing. That is, he couldn't swim at all and he had to be rescued.
1 Rich Gannon Walks into a Hazing Beatdown
Former Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon described a hazing incident that took place in the team's locker room during the early 2000s. Walking into the locker room one day, he found a rookie tight end being manhandled by a group of lineman. They had wrestled the rookie to the ground, stripped him of his clothes and began tossing icy hot, baby powder and various other items on him. They followed it up with a number of Charlie Horses in his arm and thigh. Teammates laughed.
Gannon stopped the disgraceful event and yelled, "I need this guy. I need that guy right there on Sunday to help me win a football game and you guys are beating him up. How's that gonna make him feel any better for Sunday?"
Gannon feels hazing is a loser's mentality, but "it's one thing to have a tradition where we're gonna have rookies sing their fight song...That doesn't hurt anybody. That's maybe a rite of passage if you will."
While some will even disagree with Gannon about his take on singing a "fight song," he does bring up an excellent point. There are fine lines between hazing, joking around and an act--or series of acts--viewed as a "rite of passage." Unfortunately, too often than not, that line is blurred and the possible outcomes become endlessly dangerous.