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Hazing will be thing of the past for Dolphins

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell today will meet with the braintrust of the NFL Players Association, including new president Eric Winston, executive director DeMaurice Smith and other members of the recently elected executive committee, and one major topic on the table will be workplace conduct.

The meeting, part of Goodell's attention to fostering respect and good conduct in the workplace, is a direct result of the Dolphins 2013 harassment scandal.

And out of this and other meetings may come tangible conduct guidelines from the NFL on how players (and others) should interact in the workplace -- which includes the locker room, the practice field, and practice facility as well as the football field every game day.

(Sad it has come to this, but grown men are about to be told how to act because a handful of guys on the Dolphins and elsewhere crossed the line.)

Anyway, one area that is most definitely in the crosshairs on a league and local level with the Dolphins is the subject of rookie hazing.

The idea of older, more established players wielding power over younger, newer players is not new to the NFL. It's been going on forever. And much of the time it has been innocuous.

The idea of rookies bringing breakfast to camp every morning, or meals for veterans to team flights, or singing their alma mater in front of a team meeting hasn't really bothered too many people before -- except Tim Bowens once upon a time. (More on that later).

But when you have an annual practice, which rookie hazing is, and you have no guidelines for it and thus no limits, and then some folks get out of control, the practice often is assigned governing parameters.

Look for rookie hazing on a league-wide level to soon be governed under some parameters. And do not be surprised if those parameters include prohibiting much if not all rookie hazing altogether.

And even if rookie hazing league-wide is not severly limited, look for the Dolphins to do so going forward.


Well, the NFL believes the players should operate in a workplace environment of respect and professionalism. And hazing -- which includes practices such as  players giving other players embarrassing haircuts and forcing them to do sophomoric things -- does not outwardly portray a strong sense of respect and professionalism.

You may recall during the past two preseasons Dolphins veterans have cut and dyed the hair of rookies in all sorts of unfashionable ways. In 2012 Jonathan Martin was made to look like a monk, with his hair shaven on top and allowed to grow out on the side.

Josh Samuda's hair was sculpted in such a way as to resemble a penis. And although Samuda tried to wear a hat to cover the carving, it was nonetheless uncovered during a team meeting ... on Hard Knocks.

You'll recall the scene on national television of coach Joe Philbin smiling uncomfortably as he saw the hairstyle unveiled. And you'll recall him joking about how classy that made the Dolphins organization look.

Well, Philbin last year got a taste of what can happen when playful rookie hazing grows up, gets angry, and is put in the hands of exactly the wrong people -- people who have no barriers holding power over people who have no ability to stand up for themselves.

Philbin obviously doesn't want a repeat of veteran players forcing younger players to do things they don't want -- such as pay for trips to Las Vegas, the strip club or expensive dinners -- which were some of the allegations of what was going on within the Dolphins.

So Philbin is going to draw a line on hazing in the coming training camp even if the NFL does not.

(Peanut gallery: But Mando, rookie hazing serves a purpose. It draws the players closer. It is a rite of passage. It brings the rookie outsiders into the fold. It is a team-building exercise).

Thank you, peanut gallery for making the argument used throughout time to defend the practice.

In truth, many NFL coaches past and present would not allow hazing at all and had close teams and, indeed, successful teams without it.

Bill Walsh, who won four Super Bowls for the San Francisco 49ers, would not allow rookie hazing. Pete Carroll, whose Seattle Seahawks just won the Super Bowl, does not condone rookie hazing.

"The way Bill saw it, if you hazed rookies you might get them so scared they couldn't focus on the game," running back Roger Craig said in the book 100 things 49ers fans should know and do before they die.

"You might destroy their confidence. So Bill didn't allow that. After all they were there to help us win more Super Bowls."

The Dolphins have had rookie hazing since, well, perhaps 1966 when the team was founded. Don Shula allowed it. But Shula's pragmatism always took precedence over tradition. Yes, the Dolphins had a tradition of hazing, but Shula believed more in the idea of winning.

And when tradition threatened winning, tradition lost.

In 1994, first-round pick Tim Bowens was ordered by veterans to sing in front of the team in keeping with the hazing tradition. Bowens refused and actually started packing his bags to leave the team and head home to Mississippi.

Shula stepped in.

Bowens didn't have to sing. He didn't have to be hazed.

All he had to do was play well and help the team win.