Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said he gets nostalgic when talking with 11-year veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams about how the NFL was when they started their careers.
Allen, in his 10th season in the league, said older players “hazing” rookies as a rite of passage has changed significantly since he broke in with Kansas City in 2004. While not condoning the extreme behavior that caused a splintering in the Miami Dolphins locker room last week, Allen said veterans establishing the atmosphere in the locker room has been lost to a degree.
“From a player’s standpoint, I think some of the younger guys come in and there’s a sense of entitlement, and you lose that work ethic, you lose that true veteran-led locker room sometimes,” Allen said. “You got to know who you’re dealing with. You can’t treat everyone the same. You can’t treat every rookie the same. Some guys are more sensitive than others, but it’s a sign of respect.”
Allen said he knows Dolphins guard Richie Incognito, who has been suspended by the team as the NFL reviews a harassment complaint from tackle Jonathan Martin, but he doesn’t know the details of the situation in Miami.
Martin, a second-year player, left the Dolphins last week amid rumors of being bullied by Incognito, an eight-year veteran, for the past two seasons. Reports said Incognito received $15,000 from Martin to finance a summer trip to Las Vegas with a couple of teammates; Martin did not go on the trip, but paid out of fear of the repercussions. There also were racially charged and demeaning text messages and at least one voice mail sent to Martin from Incognito, who denied the allegations on his Twitter account Sunday.
“Richie has a good heart, he really does,” Allen said. “I know he’s catching some heat right now, but from what I know of Richie, we’ve always had a good relationship.”
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has implemented an anti- hazing policy with his players since the start of his tenure. However, Allen and the defensive line taped defensive tackle Chase Baker to a goalpost and poured ice, a jug of water and Pepto-Bismol on him during training camp last year because the rookie refused to sing and dance.
“I got scolded for that; we’re not allowed to do that anymore,” Allen said.
Frazier takes time out in training camp to lay the foundation of what the veterans can’t force upon the rookies.
“The communication part of it here is what’s important,” Frazier said. “Some things I won’t necessarily know about, but I hope that I’ll be clued in on what’s necessary. Having good leadership to keep me involved in the things that might contradict what we want to get done and what we want to project as a team.”
Running back Adrian Peterson said veteran Chester Taylor took it easy on him during his rookie year in 2007. Peterson said he had to carry a helmet or a shoulder pad from time to time, but the running backs didn’t do anything extreme.
“After those guys saw me in training camp, they really weren’t trying to bother me too much,” Peterson said. “I think I earned their respect rather quickly.”
A common “hazing” tradition for pro sports teams is having a “rookie dinner” where the team eats out and the rookie players split the tab, which soars into five figures.
Allen recalled during his rookie year driving 20 miles to pick up chicken for the veterans before every team flight.
“It just depends on when you came in [as a rookie],” Allen said. “Reasonable back in the day? Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard of worse. I’ve heard of less. It depends. That’s usually how it is. But usually it’s a rite of passage you go through, so as a rookie from a football standpoint you go through stuff and that’s what kind of brings you together as a team.”