In his first year as an NFL head coach, Chip Kelly said he delivered a simple and clear message to his team about personal conduct.
“We addressed it when we brought the rookies in here and just told them 'everybody’s the same, whether you’re a 10-year guy or you’re a rookie,’” Kelly said during Thursday’s press conference at the NovaCare Complex. “That’s part of the deal. Part of our job is to make sure that the young guys get acclimated, and ‘what was it like when you were a rookie?’ It’s hard, even though they are professionals. There’s still a learning curve. It’s just like being a freshman in college again or a freshman in high school again. And they can all go back again and think about what it was like when they were younger. It’s a difficult transition for anybody.”
Kelly, like so many other coaches and players around the league, was asked about his thoughts on hazing. It has become a big topic in the NFL considering what’s transpired in Miami.
Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin recently walked out of the team facility and took a leave of absence following reports that he was the victim of protracted hazing. Shortly thereafter, the Dolphins suspended another offensive lineman, Richie Incognito, for “allegations of player misconduct” made by Martin’s representatives.
There were several bizarre twists to the story: There were reports that Dolphins coaches encouraged Incognito to toughen Martin up. Another report claimed that Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland encouraged Martin to physically confront Incognito. And, most recently, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill said that Incognito -- despite allegedly being Martin’s main tormenter -- was actually “best friends” with Martin.
“I think with all our guys they’re all members of the same team and I think everyone should be treated the same way,” Kelly said. “Some of our young offensive linemen make sure there’s water stocked in the offensive line meeting, but everybody is a professional. Everybody is on the same team. We don’t have a rookie show. We don’t do those things. We’re all on the same side. It’s us against the other 31 teams in this league. I think the quicker you can get those guys indoctrinated -- it’s 'you are a member of the Philadelphia Eagles now and there’s a way we expect everybody to act.' That’s kind of how we’ve always approached it here.”
While the Eagles don’t have a rookie show or condone hazing, rookie offensive lineman Lane Johnson said there’s a dinner in the near future where the rookies will pick up the bill. That was also one of the points of contention in the Dolphins’ drama. According to reports, Martin and some of the younger players were handed a $30,000 restaurant tab one evening. The rookie minimum this year is approximately $400,000.
“We got the rookie dinner coming up and it’s gonna be hefty for me,” Johnson said in the NovaCare Complex locker room this week. “I’m definitely not looking forward to that.”
Hefty, meaning financially?
“Yeah,” Johnson replied.
Someone then asked if he was “OK with that.”
“Yeah, I don’t mind it,” Johnson said. “We’ll have fun that night. It’s just part of, I guess, tradition. You can’t break tradition.”