Zorn Rule: No Hazing
The young'uns were all carrying helmets up the hill after practice today. Marcus Mason had the helmets of Mike Sellers and Rock Cartwright along with his own; "I had Ladell's and CP's, but somebody helped me," he said. "I'm not a rookie, but I'm still the youngest [running back]."
New wideout Malcolm Kelly, meantime, had all sorts of extra baggage. "I don't even know whose all helmets I've got," he said. "Just part of the deal, man."
The highlight of the first-day hazing--besides veterans calling Fred Davis "Big Sleepy" and "Z's"--was last night at dinner, when the rooks were supposed to stand up on a chair and sing. Davis declined; "I just didn't know any songs off the top of my head to sing, because I'm not really a great singer," he said.
"Ask one of the vets who was the best last night, see what they say," Kelly said, oozing Katherine McPhee-type confidence.
"Oh, he's pretty good," Santana Moss said. "He sung it real well, and we all sung it with him. When you get guys to sing with you, you know that you're doing a job, so he sung real well. He was the best singer last night."
"Malcolm can sing," Davis agreed. "He was in there getting standing ovations."
The fun ended last night, though. Jim Zorn arrived after the musical interlude and said there would be no more veteran-mandated singing this year. Turns out the coach has a long-standing aversion to hazing rituals, including the league-wide tradition of rookies standing to sing.
"I just remember how distracting it is for a young guy trying to make a football team," Zorn explained to me. "And when I went to Seattle, one of the early meetings in training camp, Mike Holmgren stood up and said, "Men, there will be no hazing.' I thought, 'WHAT an idea! GOSH!' And he explained why, and he kind of explained that whole thing that I always thought, 'What are we doing here?' You know, we're grown men, we're fighting to make a football team. And I'm not talking about having fun and poking and doing practical jokes and things like that, I'm not talking about that kind of hazing.
"And then, you know what happens, there'll be one guy who's really embarrassed about it, and he's a number one draft choice or he's a key player. I've seen this happen in Seattle. What happens is, if that guy decides to buck the system, buck the hazing and say, 'I'm not doing it,' then he gets marked as an unfriendly guy. But what happened, really, is the coaching staff or the policies created that issue. And it didn't even have to be created to begin with. So I'm just deferring really to Mike's leadership there, and I'm telling you that, to me, it's wonderful. It may tick a couple of veteran guys off who want to just jab and poke, but they'll get that done in other ways."
And so, no more Luther Vandross, I suppose, although Zorn said Kelly could still "stand up and vocalize" during meals if it was strictly voluntary, free musical expression for his teammates. A TV reporter asked Kelly for a snippet of song, and he declined, citing the "no hazing" rule. A few minutes later, Kelly walked by me and the coach.
"There's Malcolm, he may sing you a tune right now," Zorn said.
I asked about the standing ovation.
"Yeah, I did, but no hazing, I can't do it," Kelly said.
"You can if you want," Zorn pointed out. "It just won't be hazing."
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