Team unity is without a doubt one of the most important goals for all NFL teams as they head into training camp. Players should already be out of their playbooks and ready for installation of special packages as the season approaches.
Gone are the days where players would report to camp looking to round back into shape. Staying conditioned and at a peak performance level has become a year-round affair in today’s NFL. The long summer grind these players will endure for the next month is as much about team-building as anything else. One of the most important components of building that chemistry is the act of rookie hazing.
In recent years society has gotten into a bad habit of going to the extreme. As a result, the word hazing has taken on a bit of a negative connotation. Rookie hazing does not fall into this category. These young, talented, soon to be, or in quite a few cases, already young millionaires have to respect the path of the rookie. And the path of the rookie is that you are going to have to do something embarrassing, silly, or just strange for the veterans of the team to know that you are willing to step out of the box to conform to team code. Allowing the veterans who themselves went through the ritual to also bond over the enjoyment of your distress.
Let’s be clear: We are not talking about some kind of Richie Incognito harassment hazing. But there could be a really bad haircut involved. In fact, the heat in Tampa Bay serves as the perfect excuse for rookies to show up with the quaffs already groomed. Lest they are made to use the razor and end up with a Tim Tebow, really bad monk-inspired hairstyle.
There might be equipment control involved. Rookies can sometimes be seen after practice holding several helmets or pairs of shoulder pads. For all familiar with various pieces of football equipment, it could be a lot worse.
Rookies might also have to take their teammates out for a lavish dinner at a fine local eatery and pick up the tab for the entire affair. The best ones are always the offensive players who take the offensive line out and end up with a tab that runs into the thousands.
Whether a team’s rookie hazing involves a lot of medical tape and a goal post or stepping in front of the team and singing a capella, these little acts of unity will strengthen the bond coaches and players work to build throughout training camp. When teams go into battle for the next six months the smiles, laughs, and maybe even tears that are shared during camp will build team unity that will play a big part in a successful 2019 season. Let the hazing begin.
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