Patriots

How rookie hazing in baseball has changed

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How rookie hazing in baseball has changed

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, August 15, 2011
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds outfielder Chris Heisey wasn't surprised to see the schoolgirl outfit hanging in his locker, his humbling attire for the start of a late-season road trip. Welcome to the majors, rookie. "I felt it would happen," Heisey said. "As the season went on last year, I kind of heard talk that it would happen. All the rookies were talking about what we would be dressing up as." Making the rookies wear outlandish outfits for a road trip or fix a ham sandwich for a veteran is as much baseball tradition as batting practice and curtain calls, a time-honored way of reminding the newcomers where they rank in the clubhouse pecking order. While other sports struggle with the question of when rookie hazing crosses the line, it remains part of baseball's fabric -- though not nearly as outlandish as some of the stunts in other sports. "I think it's worse in football," said Colorado's Todd Helton, who played quarterback as a two-sport star at Tennessee. "When I was in college football, they shaved me bald -- the whole incoming freshman class. A bunch of big guys grabbed you and shaved your head." The Jacksonville Jaguars banned rookie hazing this year, saying it had gone too far. In recent years, rookies had been taped to goal posts, covered in baby powder, tossed in a cold tub and forced to accept ugly haircuts. The Jaguars can still hold their annual rookie talent competition and veterans are allowed to make the newcomers carry their equipment. But that's the limit. Last year, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant created a stir when he refused to carry a veteran's pads, challenging the rookie hazing tradition. In professional baseball, rookies get a much milder treatment -- no shaving, no forced haircuts, no taping to stationary objects. "I don't even know if hazing would be the proper term to use as far as baseball is concerned," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose rookie indoctrination involved wearing a gaudy suit. Whatever it's called in baseball, it's changing, too. With young players taking on more prominent roles, they're getting treated more like equals in the clubhouse these days. Veterans say the latest rookie classes have been singled out far less than in the past. "Because the game seems to be getting younger and younger, a lot of that stuff has totally changed," said Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who was forced to fetch drinks for veterans during the middle of the night at team hotels when he was a Pirates rookie. "There's a lot less going on." And most welcome it. "It's changed," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "In fact, I'm kind of glad it changed. I've never been a big fan of the whole thing." Marlins infielder Wes Helms had to carry veterans' luggage onto team flights and serve them on the plane when he was a rookie. "There's definitely less than when I came up," Helms said. "Now, you don't really have anything as far as making them do anything stupid throughout the year to embarrass themselves. "It definitely has calmed down over the years. Rookies are a little different nowadays. When I came up, you didn't say a word until you had two or three years in the big leagues. Now guys come up and it's like they're already comfortable." How rookies are treated depends upon the veterans in charge. Most teams force rookies to dress in embarrassing costumes for a road trip late in the season. They might be ordered to sing or dance at the front of the team bus. "The closest thing we have is the guy with the least service time in the bullpen has to carry the backpack of candy or drinks and find out what the bullpen guys want," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We do some things at spring training just as bonding with guys, not really hazing. You give them projects or you ask them to do a report on something." Each clubhouse is different. "I think it all comes down to the people that have the power," Arroyo said. "If the older guys are reasonable and want the team to flourish, you're only going to be able to push that so far without damaging (the chances) to be a winning team. So I think it depends on who's king of the hill and whether those people are reasonable." Some if it depends upon how the rookies accept their special treatment. "If you take it the right way, it doesn't happen twice," Helton said. "Usually when a guy fights back is when the problems arise. My rookie year, I was the only rookie. When they told me to, I'd make them ham sandwiches that year. I just kept my mouth shut and did what they said." Paul Konerko of the White Sox thinks rookie hazing shouldn't make a newcomer feel uncomfortable. "I remember when I was a rookie, people made me feel uncomfortable, maybe crossed the line," said Konerko, who broke in with the Dodgers in 1997. "When that happens, when that player gets older, he says, 'I'm not going to do that because I know how it felt.' Or, 'I can't wait to do it to someone.' It's one of the two, and I think I'm the first one." A lot of players see baseball's rookie treatment as something to be appreciated. "There's a deeper history in the game of baseball and things like that," Twins reliever Matt Capps said. "You try to carry that history over. "It's a fine line. As long as you have fun and the guys that do get hazed know that it's all in fun and in the right manner, I think it's great." As soon as the rookies are done wearing those dresses, they think about sticking around long enough to see the next generation do the same. "Hopefully that continues," said Heisey, in his second season in Cincinnati. "Hopefully I can play long enough to do those fun things with the rookies at some point in time."

With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

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With Andrews out, who's next man up for the Patriots at center?

Continuity along the offensive line was one of the reasons the Patriots were able to have the season they had in 2016. They tossed aside the early-season experiementation that Bill Belichick favored at times in order to establish a starting five that could be relied upon, if healthy, start to finish. 

They attacked 2017 with the same approach, but because of injury the consistency simply has not been the same. Both starting tackles, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, have missed time injured this season, and Cannon will sit out again on Sunday as he continues to deal with an ankle injury. 

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The interior of the line has remained largely in place until this week when center David Andrews came down with an illness, missed two practices, and was ruled out. 

On a line where familiarity is key, where the center is the one making the calls, the one in constant communication with Tom Brady, what now?

The Patriots will likely turn to second-year man Ted Karras, who has the ability to play both guard spots and also backed up Andrews for the vast majority of training camp. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder was released at the end of camp, quickly signed to the Patriots practice squad, and then he re-signed to the active roster in Week 1 when Malcolm Mitchell was placed on injured reserve.

Karras, drafted in the sixth round in 2016 out of Illinois, was named a practice player of the week earlier this year and he earned some praise from Belichick before the Patriots took off for Mexico City.

"Ted works hard," Belichick said. "He loves football. He gets there early, stays late."

Belichick noted that Karras (nine snaps, all against the Broncos) hasn't played much this season, but he did see plenty of work early last season when he filled in for an injured Shaq Mason. He was the Week 1 starter at right guard in a win ver the Cardinals and he played 41 snaps in Week 2 against the Dolphins. 

The Patriots offensive line could also potentially turn to Joe Thuney at center. He's practiced there before and got some experience at the position during his time at NC State. This seems like the less likely move since the Patriots would then have to deal with two new players at different spots -- center and left guard (whether the player replacing Thuney would be Karras or rookie Cole Croston) -- which could have a domino effect on the rest of the line. 

However the Patriots choose to handle it, they'll face an interesting test south of the border. The Raiders feature a pair of talented pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, who Belichick says play all over the offensive line, yet Oakland is tied for last in the league in sacks. 

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

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Bill Belichick takes time to admire yet another opposing punter

If the Patriots are about to go up against one of the more talented punters in the league, one way or another, you're bound to hear about it from Bill Belichick.

Sometimes Belichick will go into great detail on opposing punters in one of his weekly press conferences. Sometimes he'll go out of his way to highlight a punter during one of his "breakdowns" on Patriots.com. 

He went the latter route this week, gushing over Raiders punter Marquette King.

"We usually don't have the punters on the highlights here, but King's a very athletic punter," Belichick said. "He runs a lot of fakes, a guy you have to really be conscious of as a both holder on field goals and punts on fakes."

King is the No. 2 punter in the league when it comes to net punting (45.5 yards), and he's tenth in the league in terms of the number of punts dropped inside the 20-yard line. 

"King is an athletic guy," Belichick reiterated, "and he can change field-position big time."

Add him to the list of big-legged punters -- "weapons," if you will -- Belichick has praised in the past.

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