As the Washington Redskins' entire staff of coaches, players and support staff finalize departure plans for training camp in Richmond, Va. over the weekend in preparation for Day 1 of real practice sessions that begin July 25, conspiring veterans are thinking of ways to best prank or "haze" the incoming rookies.
More often than not, the more outlandish the prank, the better the chance the media will include the incident as part of their story. After all, who wants to plan a prank it nobody finds out about the incident?
The tradition of hazing or pulling pranks on incoming rookies in the NFL is all meant to be harmless, good fun for the veterans as they welcome the newest players to the team.
It is innocent fun that is meant to either embarrass or humble the former college standouts and serves as a rite of passage into life in professional sports.
In many ways, the mere act of humiliating a rookie is to teach them to respect the veterans. It doesn't matter who they are, what they did in college or what round they were selected in the NFL draft—the tradition of rookie hazing at Redskins training camp does not discriminate.
Last year, incoming rookie and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III was asked, more appropriately told, to carry a handful of veteran Redskins helmets from the practice field to the equipment room inside the facility at Redskins Park.
From a 2009 Bleacher Report article, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana at one time hid the bicycles of the rookies, a hazing in and of itself, and overnight would take their bicycles and put them in the highest trees nearby.
That in turn would send the panic-stricken rookies in a morning frenzy as they searched aimlessly for the bikes they had to ride to training camp nearly a half-mile down the road.
Veteran NFL players have long been known to force a rookie to take a group of players out to dinner and foot the bill. Every year, the San Diego Chargers' first-round pick would have to take the entire team to dinner. In 2009, linebacker Larry English was stuck with a $14,000 bill, according to AOL News.
More recent hazing examples involving Redskins players occurred in 2011 when rookies were in charge of picking up trash, setting up equipment and making travel arrangements or reservations for dinner.
In 2009, rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo and a teammate were taped to a goalpost, hosed down and coolers of ice water were dumped on their head, a scene shown on WRC-TV, the Washington, DC-area NBC station.
It boils down to showing a level of respect to the veterans and performing an assortment of duties that you would not expect a million dollar athlete to have to perform.
Nonetheless, since it is part of the team initiation, it would be foolish to refuse, or more importantly disrespect, the wishes and wants of the veterans. If nothing else, it becomes a lesson in humility.
It is all in good fun, and that is what the game is all about. Outside of the serious moments, the X's and O's and study of the playbook, it is meant to bolster team camaraderie. Part of the reason for training camp is to have the Redskins away from their immediate friends and family and to focus and prepare for the upcoming season.
The Redskins are permitted to go home for the weekends. While they are at training camp, the players practice together, and when camp was held at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. for so many years, the players lived together in dormitories.
There is a certain degree of bonding between teammates that is unavoidable after spending so much of their waking moments with one another. With discipline comes respect, and with respect comes responsibility and loyalty.
Combining these elements with a dash of hazing or mindless pranks just to show the newest players that they are all in this together is a simple lesson with little to no serious consequences if handled properly.
It is a shame that for some, hazing is now associated with such negative, degrading behavior that can go more than a little too far. In the spirit of just having some fun at the expense of others with no malice or mistreatment involved, it is just a part of being included in the group and carrying on a tradition that is meant to show acceptance in a humorous fashion.
I always look forward to hearing about or seeing some of the more outrageous and off-the-wall pranks the veterans come up with as the season approaches. Hopefully, this year will include some of those gems.
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