NFL Hazing to go the Way of Helmet-To-Helmet Contact

Tom Landry made rookies wear hotter, dark-colored pants and helmets without stars until they earned their place on the Cowboys.

Bill Parcells forced high draft picks to fetch him a cup of water during breaks in practice.

And under Wade Phillips veteran offensive linemen would break out the barber shears and give bizarre, embarrassing haircuts to rookies at training camp.

Initiation and hazing have been around as long as football, but even the Cowboys say the threats and slurs between Miami Dolphins has crossed the line of respect and dignity and professionalism. Jonathan Martin left the team last week, after what he alleges was criminal harassment by teammate Richie Incognito, who in turns says Dolphins’ coaches urged him to “toughen up” the rookie.

“There are some things that have happened in football for a long, long time,” says head coach Jason Garrett. “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.”

Football is a barbaric sports with roots in Neanderthalism. It’s violent. It’s primal. It’s … changing.

The parent of a Fort Worth Western Hills High School player filed charges of bullying against an Aledo coach in the wake of a 91-0 rout last month. We’ve all seen the kinder, gentler play on the field, all in the name of player safety. And now? A curtailing of the old-as-the-game-itself ritual of forcing newcomers to pay a price to join the club.

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Said tight end Jason Witten, “I know you have to be mentally tough to play in this league, but there is no place for that at this level.”

I’m unfamiliar with hazing in my profession. Thought Charles Haley did routinely throw rolls of tape at me at Valley Ranch in the ‘90s because I was “the enemy,” in journalism I was never forced to carry Randy Galloway’s briefcase at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram or bring a carton of 5-hour Energy drinks to Newy Scruggs at NBC 5. Though it goes on in fraternities and in the military, the acceptable standard for initiations in locker rooms might be changing right before our eyes.

Sure players will still buy food on road trips and sing at training camp, but a new rule will be in place henceforth: Unite as a team, without humiliating individual players.

A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at and lives in McKinney with his fiancee, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.

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