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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs rookies OK with team initiation rituals

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Published:   |   Updated: November 7, 2013 at 05:36 AM

TAMPA — Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon can't remember who it was that gave him the order, only that it was one of his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates and that what he was asking, in essence, was for Glennon to humiliate himself.

That's what rookie hazings are about, after all, but as he slowly made his way to the stage to carry out the order to perform for the entire team prior to a team meeting in August, Glennon devised a plan to escape embarrassment.

“I sang 'Build Me Up Buttercup,''' Glennon said.

“It was just me, no one else, and that was a song that I thought everyone would know and would sing along with,'' Glennon added. “When people started clapping and singing along, I figured that was a good sign.''

The indoctrination into the NFL of young players has become a hot topic in light of reports that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito bullied teammate Jonathan Martin so badly that Martin left the team.

Several Bucs rookies, including Glennon, said Wednesday they were forced to go through a ritual hazing process with the Bucs, but none said they were asked to do anything that would constitute bullying or workplace abuse.

“I don't know what's going on down there in Miami, but these guys here, they've treated me like I'm a veteran,'' Bucs rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks said. “I love being around these guys.''

Not all Bucs rookies are treated like veterans. Some, such as rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence, were charged during training camp with carrying veteran player's helmets and shoulder pads off the field following practice.

Several rookies were also tasked with picking up the tab for a position group dinner near the end of training camp and some were asked to carry out a variety of menial duties for their teammates.

“I had to run to Chipotle a few times to get burritos for the quarterbacks,'' Glennon said. “I mean, you hear all these stories, but there wasn't anything I had to do that was bad at all. There was no hazing here. No one cut their hair, no one had to shave their beards, there was none of that. It's about as pure and innocent as you can get here.''

That is largely by design. Bucs coach Greg Schiano said he doesn't have a problem with his veteran players carrying out rookie initiation rituals as long as the young players are still treated with respect.

“My thing is you don't cross the line,'' Schiano said. “That's a man, you're a man; so let's make sure we don't cross the line. I don't get into, don't do this, do this, don't do this.

“When you start having a thousand different things, you run out of time before you can define all of them. So, I think the Golden Rule is one that you live by. Treat others the way you want to be treated, and I think our guys have been good about that.''

Few have been as good as fourth-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. In a bit of a role reversal, the 2012 Pro Bowler carried Spence's pads back to the locker room following a workout one day this past training camp.

“I'm a teammate, and you have to learn to serve before you can lead,” McCoy said at the time. “If a young guy sees one of the vets, one of the captains, picking up a rookie's pads, hopefully he thinks, 'Well, who am I to say I'm not going to do this?'''

Spence's favorable treatment pretty much ended there. As was the case with most of the Bucs rookies this year, he had to come up with something to entertain the rest of the team during the rookie talent show. He also had to pay for a pricey dinner for the other members of his position group. In both cases, though, Spence said a good time was had by all, including the rookies.

“For the talent show, we had a video where we changed the faces of the (characters) from (the movie) Django (Unchained) into guys on the team and then we did a skit of a D-line meeting room,'' Spence said.

“We were able to make fun of the coaches and everything and so that was pretty funny. And for the rookie dinner, we have a lot of rookies on the D-line, so we were able to split the cost of that. I was pretty happy about that. I mean, I can't say we got hazed because we weren't asked to do much.''

Reports have also surfaced saying Incognito's treatment of Martin was in keeping with a request from the Dolphins coaching staff to toughen up Martin after he missed a voluntary workout last offseason.

Schiano said players typically take it upon themselves to hold one another accountable to be at their best whenever possible, but that his personal approach for dealing with an under-performer is quite direct.

“I just talk to him,'' Schiano said. “I call him in and tell him this is what we need from you. If he doesn't do it then you play somebody else.

“The thing I learned a long time ago was, it's like raising your kids. So, you can threaten and yell and scream, but that may not work. But as soon as their rear end meets bench, if they've got it in them they're going to fight back. If they don't, they don't and then you know it's time to move on.''

rcummings@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7979

Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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