Dave Boling: Seahawks under Carroll no place for Incognito-style hazing

Staff WriterNovember 5, 2013 

RENTON — Sometimes you’ll see somebody coming in from the Seahawks’ practice field carrying a couple of extra helmets or a veteran’s shoulder pads.

A rookie’s burden.

That’s about the extent of it, though, because hazing is not allowed on a Pete Carroll team.

“We don’t have time (for it),” Carroll said Monday. “Our rookies that come in here and our freshmen that came into college (at USC), they’re too much a part of the program to be separated in any kind of fashion like that, so we just didn’t have any place for it.”

The topic came to the forefront this week when offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the Miami Dolphins, and details alleged harassment of him by teammate Richie Incognito became public and were increasingly disturbing.

Racial and threatening components were alleged to be part of Incognito’s hazing of Martin. Other reports hold that veterans put outrageous financial burdens on rookies or young players to pick up checks for extravagant meals and trips.

In the wake of the news, Incognito, who has had on- and off-the-field behavioral issues throughout his career, has been suspended indefinitely.

Good. It’s the 21st century. As violent as the NFL can be, it’s still a workplace.

There is a history of this sort of thing in the league, because hazing has been seen as part of the initiation into a tight fraternity.

“In the past, yeah, I’ve seen it,” Carroll said. “It was an old-school way of thinking, a way of operating. We know better now … it couldn’t be any more clear and more obvious to us all now, and we just need to do a really good job of sending the message properly.”

Seattle radio personality Dave Wyman was a rookie linebacker with the Seahawks in 1987. He’d heard stories of hazing episodes on the team before he was drafted.

“There had been some of that going on, and (coach) Chuck (Knox) went ballistic over it,” Wyman said. “Chuck challenged the veterans … he was as mad as anybody had seen him. He said this has to stop. Chuck was all about respect, and respecting teammates. So when I got here, I didn’t even have to sing my rookie year.”

During the Dennis Erickson years in the mid- to late-90s, a training camp ritual included some physical initiation of the team’s first-round pick. Receiver Joey Galloway, particularly, saw no humor in being taped to a blocking dummy and being doused with Gatorade.

Quarterback Brock Huard was in coach Mike Holmgren’s first draft class (1999) with the Seahawks. “Mike wouldn’t have it,” Huard said of Holmgren’s firmly stated policy on the matter. “He said, ‘That won’t happen here, we’re professionals.’ ”

But Huard recalled the case of a former University of Washington teammate, tight end Cam Cleeland, who suffered a concussion in a hazing incident when he was a rookie with the New Orleans Saints in 1998. He was struck in the head with a sock filled with quarters.

The series of incidents with the Dolphins allegedly included forcing rookies to pick up the tab for trips or group meals … some reportedly up to $30,000.

“That’s ridiculous,” Wyman said. “Thirty thousand could pay your kid’s tuition. I’m not gonna spend that kind of money to feed some fat jackass.”

Veteran leadership and a strong head coach should be enough to change any lingering culture of hazing on a modern NFL team. But the episode in Miami is a reminder.

In addition to suspending Incognito, the Dolphins issued a statement saying they’ve reached out to the league office to have an objective and thorough review of the matter conducted.

After hearing of the Miami incident, Carroll made it a point to ask Seahawks if any such problems are at hand.

“I have asked around to make sure that everything is OK and we haven’t had any issues,” Carroll said. “I think we’re in really good shape. It’s never been an issue. I just don’t like it, and don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

NOT a low profile

Richie Incognito incidents:

2003-04: Offensive lineman suspended twice at Nebraska under two different coaches

June 2004: Convicted of misdemeanor assault after incident at party while at Nebraska.

October 2004: Kicked off Oregon team without playing for Ducks, one month after transferring from Nebraska.

December 2009: Cut by Rams two days after getting called for two personal fouls and arguing with coach Steve Spagnuolo during a game.

2009: Voted NFL’s “dirtiest player” in a Sporting News poll of league’s players.

2012: Earned a share of Dolphins’ “Good Guy Award,” given to the player who is most cooperative with the media.

Monday: Suspended indefinitely by Dolphins.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@ thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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