By now almost everyone who follows professional football has heard the story about what has taken place in the Miami Dolphins locker room.
Imagine if you received threatening text messages from a colleague at work, hurling vile racial epithets at you along with a promise to "kill you." What would you do? First, you would call company security, and then you might call the cops. But because this was the NFL, second-year player Martin thought he had to take it, otherwise he would be called soft. Finally, Martin simply walked away from the Dolphins — an act that is looking more manly and dignified by the second.
This raises a serious question, not only in Miami, but in 32 locker rooms all around the National Football League, "What, exactly, is going on inside the exclusive realm of professional football?" Although the Dolphins have now suspended Richie Incognito and asked for a league investigation, there is evidence that the team actually supported and encouraged the conduct that most would find unacceptable.
Recently, Tom Ryle raised the issue that while we do have some issues in Dallas, they are minor compared to the issues that the Dolphins now face. Still you have to wonder about what might take place behind the closed doors of Valley Ranch. Fortunately, several current and former Cowboys have weighed in on the situation and given us a look at what rookies go through in Dallas.
Up first is Dez Bryant, who drew some fire when he refused to carry a certain veteran's pads during training camp.
"It's just my opinion, I think, that kind of stuff is uncalled for, you know. There's really no need for it."
"I think if you want to win, you got to leave that hazing out of the door," he said. "It can't be in your locker room." - Dez Bryant
Dez is adamant that if you want to bring out the best in a player and make him feel that he can be a valued part of the team, the best way to accomplish that is not by hazing. According to Dez, the Cowboys do a nice job of walking the fine line between having a little fun with the rookies and resorting to outright hostile actions.
"You don't want them to be feeling that this is not a place for them, and that's something that I think I got over to our rookies. I treated them as if they were here five years. I think that's what you need; you want to put that confidence in them early." - Dez Bryant
Bryant was joined in his disdain for what has happened in Miami by Jason Witten. Speaking with KTCK-AM "The Ticket", Witten stated:
"It’s tough. I’ve heard some of the stuff reported on the voicemails. There is no place for that in this game. I know you have to be mentally tough to play in this league, but there is no place for that at this level.”
Other Cowboys chimed in as well, including Darren Woodson, who was a part of some Boys teams that were known for some outlandish behavior.
“The worst thing I ever had to do was get up in front of the entire team and sing. I used to try to avoid lunch and not do that. But they got me. They told me to get my butt over there and sing. I was embarrassed. Carrying the pads for all of the veterans, that was a tradition. The rookies would also have to pool our resources and take out the veterans in our position groups for meals. But those guys needed us. They made sure not to break us. We never had any cases where hazing went too far.” - Darren Woodson
Hazing, to the extent that it went on in Miami, is something that the Cowboys front office tries to keep in check. While acknowledging some of the traditions that go on in the league, they also try to keep things within reason. After all, the rituals are supposed to be a "team building" experience and establish some camaraderie among the veterans and rookies.
“There are some things that have happened in football for a long, long time. Rookies singing at dinner, rookies carrying shoulder pads, rookies buying fried chicken as you go to the airplane, all that stuff. That’s been around forever and that’s part of the process and part of what this league has been about for a long, long time.
“Hopefully it’s always done in a way where it’s developing team camaraderie and team chemistry and it’s good for your team. If it comes close to crossing the line, it certainly has to be addressed.
“I haven’t seen it like that [Miami incident] in my career as a player, as a coach. You try to keep your eye on any of those kinds of things, but I haven’t really seen it being an issue in the past.” - Jason Garrett
Team owner Jerry Jones added his take on the issue.
“I’ve always thought that any time people welcome a new player, or welcome someone new, with the proper type of sensitivity, yet with the spirit of camaraderie and the spirit of joining the crowd — and you’ve got to pay to join the crowd — I’ve always thought that had its place."
That is a sentiment that Jason Witten, who looks back on his rookie season as a time of growth, would agree with.
"I will never forget my rookie stories and experiences, and I think I’m better for it. It was all in good fun. There were a couple of dinners. I’ve never seen bills that high before in my life. But for the most part, in my experience, I learned and appreciated what the makeup of the NFL is all about and what a privilege it is to play at this level and be part of a team."
“There is a fine line.” - Jason Witten
As Jerry Jones stated on his radio show, “You’ve got to have respect.” Clearly from what has been stated regarding the Miami incident, respect is something that was lacking.