Food for NFL thought

Posted: April 17, 2014

THE NEXT TIME they tape an NFL rookie to the goal post in the scorching sun of summer training camp, will they have to use hypoallergenic tape? Offer him Gatorade every 15 minutes? Cut him loose after 59 minutes or face severe penalties?

Hazing is a hideous, Neanderthal charade perpetuated by creaking veteran players in an effort to hang onto their jobs for a little while longer by intimidating rookies. Build team chemistry? It has a better chance of destroying it.

"We saw what happened a few years ago in Dallas," Ike Reese said. "They had Roy Williams. Traded for him, got him from Detroit. Gave up a bunch of draft picks for him. Paid him a bunch of money.

"And then they also drafted Dez Bryant. Williams realizes a little bit of his shine, his popularity, is about to be taken away from him. We heard the reports about Williams being extra tough on Dez Bryant.

"Had him carry his shoulder pads. It's one thing to ask a rookie to do something, it's the way you ask him to do it. You do it in a disrespectful manner, the rookie may refuse to do it. Dez Bryant refused to do it. Then they took a group out to dinner and stuck Bryant with the tab, which was $50,000 or $60,000."

The NFL owners recently gathered for their annual meetings, considered a dozen rules changes. Talked about the idea of a code of conduct for locker rooms. Maybe they ought to seek testimony from guys like Reese, who played valiantly for the Eagles for seven seasons. Distinguished himself on special teams, which is hard to do. Thoughtful, insightful guy. Co-hosts a 94WIP talk show with Michael Barkann. Been out of football for eight seasons now.

"The game has changed," Reese said with a sigh when approached for his thoughts, his insights into a proposed code of conduct for NFL locker rooms. He thinks the $44 million commish, Roger Goodell, is foolishly rushing in where angels fear to tread.

"Locker rooms can be like playpens," Reese said. "With obviously oversized guys in 'em with the personality of children to a certain degree. There's a family feeling there. But it's like dealing with a big brother. You're going to be tested."

Jonathan Martin got tested in that Miami locker room. Over and over and over again. And then he bolted.

"That was extreme," Reese said. "And at first, Richie Incognito was the villain. And then it became Jonathan Martin. And then, when the report came out, it was Incognito again. The bullying had gotten out of hand.

"It's not 'anything goes.' There's a point where you have to draw the line. Hollis Thomas was a stone-breaker. Hugh Douglas, a serious stone-breaker. They'd keep on going.

"You have to say, 'Enough is enough.' I could give as good as I take. I wasn't gonna put up with a whole lot of it. After a while, I'd say, 'Enough is enough.' "

The Supreme Court once handed down a freedom-of-speech decision about "fighting words." The network censors had a list of words you couldn't say on television. What's wrong with the NFL posting a prohibited list, starting with the N-word?

"I hate the idea," Reese said swiftly. "Roger Goodell is not walking into a locker room. The locker room is the players' sanctuary. It's where we can be who we are. We're protected.

"Players do a good job of policing one another. Someone will say, 'You've gone too far.' Fights break out, the coach never finds out about it. Then the players go out and practice alongside each other.

"Nine years in the league, and I never heard a white person use the N-word. Not on the field, not in the locker room, not in the showers, not in the cafeteria. Not a teammate, not an opponent.

"In the African-American culture, over decades and decades, we have taken that heinous word, and tried to desensitize it. We've somehow flipped it, made it a term of endearment. Right, wrong or indifferent, that's the way it's used in the locker room.

"I would say that 85 or 90 percent of us don't have an issue with it. Guys say they're singling African-Americans out. They're not complaining about it, but now we're hearing about possible penalties, heat of the battle, whether you're celebrating with your teammates or talking trash. It might cost my team 15 yards and maybe cost us a game.

"Do we really want to have officials worrying about that? It's not being considered in response to complaints. It's just outside interference."

Interesting stuff. One more passionate voice in the lively debate. Let's talk about it!


Email: stanrhoch@comcast.net.

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