The Dolphins' hazing situation has shed an ugly light on the occasionally scary dynamics of an NFL locker room. Upon arriving in Chicago, first-year Bears coach Marc Trestman made a point of stamping out those unwritten locker room traditions, which have now cast such a negative perception over the Dolphins.
“I told the team the first night, when you haze somebody, you take their ability to help you win. Everybody's here to help you win,” Trestman said to CBSChicago's Adam Hoge.
“Our whole foundation is built on respect for everyone in the organization, respect for the players, respect for the game, honoring the game. We talked about it a lot,” he said.
Via Hoge, Trestman has spent time with nine different NFL organizations, including the Dolphins, and some franchises bought into the notion of hazing while others didn't. But it was clear that once Trestman had full reign of a team, hazing would have no part in his operation.
“We're not talking about taking a helmet and walking off the field with a helmet, we're talking about other things. The words you use, the way you act, the things you say, affect people from all different backgrounds and places. We've got to understand that the beauty of this game is it draws people from everywhere, from different realities and different perceptions, but that can all be neutralized through respect and using the proper language and proper words in the right place and the right time, in this building, on the field, when we're out in the community because we represent the entire city.”
Given the racially-charged tone that Richie Incognito apparently used to intimidate Jonathan Martin, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is likely wishing he had implemented many of the same locker room fundamentals. The silver-lining, which is extremely significant in this case, is that the unwritten rules inside locker rooms likely won't remain there for much longer. The on-going investigation will undoubtedly yield fruitful dialogue, likely uncomfortable at times, but at least there will be a discussion regarding what should and shouldn't be tolerated among teammates.
Interestingly, Bears wideout Brandon Marshall wasn't initially on-board with Trestman's no-nonsense approach.
“There were some things we were like, ‘Man, this goes on in every locker room, we'd love to continue to do it,' but coach just said, ‘hey, we're going to nip that in the bud. I want guys to focus on football and everyone just focus on their job and not a rookie night or what the guys might do to me the next day,'” Marshall said. He also suggested the idea of having group discussions, so as not to “mask everything, because the [more] it goes untreated, the worse it gets.”
Trestman has his hands full in the NFC North, where three teams are tied atop the division at 5-3. He clearly doesn't have time – and purposely never invited – the type of distractions going on in Miami.
“Were not going to spend time having players worry about things that can't help us win.”