Vinny Testaverde Points To The Positives of Hazing

Former Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde talks about the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation as told to Steve Serby:

I certainly have never heard or seen anything like this before where a player (Jonathan Martin) files a grievance against another player (Richie Incognito).
It sounds like one guy is a racist (Incognito) and it seems to me the other guy (Martin) is soft. I don’t know what other way to put it. Of course I have compassion for him for whatever he’s going through right now.

Trying to toughen players up. … You go back to Bill Parcells with Lawrence Taylor and Jumbo Elliott getting ready for the Super Bowl XXV and Bruce Smith. Lawrence, I guess, was just kind of egging Jumbo on to get him to fight just to get him ready for the game. It’s all about getting players ready to play and getting them to perform at the highest level.

If somebody’s going to make racial slurs, you need to stand up and defend yourself. If it happened to me, I would go to that individual and say, “Listen, this isn’t funny. You need to stop doing it. You need to stop texting, or else we’re going to have a bigger issue than just what it is at this moment.”

Maybe he should have gone to the head coach first: “It’s going to come to a physical confrontation between the two of us before it’s done, you need to help me prevent this from happening.”

Most guys, it comes down to having to fight the guy. Maybe that’s just the mentality of a football player. I guess there are some guys that don’t have that mentality.

When Chad Pennington was a rookie with the Jets, we made him wear his helmet to breakfast, lunch and dinner in the cafeteria one day. That was kind of our prank or joke on him to welcome him into the NFL.

In Cleveland, I had this straw hat I got in the Bahamas that had donkey ears on it. We made (backup quarterback) Eric Zeier wear the donkey hat four or five different times in training camp. Nothing painful, nothing that would hurt. A lot of guys would see him and kind of laugh.

I would take the offensive line out occasionally. One year we had two rookie linemen, I had the waiter send over a fake bill for $17,000. They were nervously calling their agents saying, “I don’t have the money.” After 20 minutes of that, I picked up the check. Almost all of the time, it was in good fun.

One year, a group of guys — I won’t say the team or the parties — they shaved their (rookies&rsquoWinking heads, and some of the guys didn’t want to do it, but they held them down and did it anyway. I was against that — violation of personal space. Not everybody likes to have their head shaved. I know guys wear long hair now for religious reasons, or they don’t have facial hair, or whatever it may be. You have to respect his wishes.

I don’t think, when you’re in that environment, the player really believes the guy holding the clipper in his hand is going to shave a chunk of hair out of his head. I think they realized maybe they went too far. I think they (the rookies) went in fight mode and other players had to hold them back. Once they calmed down, guys realized they went too far. There was an apology. There was an acceptance of an apology. That was no longer done from that point forward.

The way it works in the locker room, the strength coach and the training staff are hearing and listening to what’s going on. The coaches are always upstairs. They’re not able to see, hear, listen to what’s going on in the locker room. If something is very bad or wrong, they would take it upstairs to the coach. They’re the head coach’s eyes and ears to what’s going on in the locker room. On the teams I’ve been on, the head coaches have never gotten involved.

You’ve seen guys tied to goal posts on “Hard Knocks” over the years. They laugh and go along with it. They understand nobody gets hurt. When you go along with it as a rookie, the older guys, the veteran guys, they know you’re a good sport, a good teammate. When it comes time to get into battle, they know they have your back and you have their back and you can go forward.

There have been times when rookies refused to sing for the team, and ended up getting tied up to a goal post, or thrown in the cold tub. Most guys realize, “OK, I screwed up, I’m going to sing next time they ask me.”

I know when people say the word “hazing,” they think the worst. It’s practical jokes, maybe that’s the definition of hazing. It’s almost like, “Welcome to our team. We’re glad you’re here, but it’s part of your apprenticeship, so to speak. We all went through it, now we get a chance to pull a couple of practical jokes on you young guys.” It does create bonding and camaraderie.

I don’t see the future being good for either one of them. My mentality is different. I just look at it as take care of your business. Now guys are going to be looking at him [Martin] like, “Hey, you know what? I don’t know if I can play with this guy, he doesn’t seem like a team guy.” Teammates will wonder, does he [Incognito] really have my back because I’m black?”

And he’s got to wonder, “Hey, do these guys have my back?” It’s kind of like Riley Cooper in Philadelphia.

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