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Rookie hazing for Falcons means stocking up on treats for veterans


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http://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/21662/hazing-for-falcons-means-stocking-up-on-candy-nuts-and-energy-drinks

 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- It used to be all about the red gelatin. These days, red candy will suffice.

Atlanta Falcons veteran linebacker Sean Weatherspoon altered his expectations of rookies over the last few years. In 2013, when Weatherspoon was in his fourth season, he would summon undrafted rookie linebacker Paul Worrilow and order him to bring fruit punch-flavored gelatin from the cafeteria to the meeting room.

After a one-year detour to the Arizona Cardinals, Weatherspoon's taste buds have obviously changed. Just last week, Weatherspoon's old buddy Worrilow ordered rookie linebackers Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell -- the team's second- and fourth-round draft picks -- to make a snack run that included strawberry Twizzlers and SweeTarts for Weatherspoon, pistachios for Philip Wheeler and Monster ultra blue energy drink for Worrilow. The total bill was around $30.

"We said, 'Deion's paying, De'Vondre driving,'" Weatherspoon explained. "Deion's got the most money right now, he's paying. So, 'De'Vondre, get him on up there to Target and get him right.' We're stacked up now. We're taken care of. They always make sure we have drinks. They don't give you any lip or nothing like that."

 

Both Jones and Campbell, along with the other four members of the draft class, understand such errands are a typical welcome-to-the-NFL moment. The same goes for the long-standing tradition of carrying pads, and neither Jones nor Campbell refused.

"It's all part of it," Jones said.

But the Falcons insist they don't push their rookies to the limit with a relentless "hazing" process, so don't expect to see anyone locked in a hot room or with one half of their head shaved. Coach Dan Quinn discourages anything over the top.

"The rooks now, I don't ask much of them because of the way they came in here," Weatherspoon said. "They are taking care of their business. They're doing what they're supposed to do."

Yes, it's different than what Weatherspoon experienced when he entered the league in 2010. He was running in circles thanks, in large part, to then-veteran linebacker Mike Peterson.

"If we were at the hotel, Mike P. would send me to his car to go get his charger," Weatherspoon said. "Ain't no problem because he had a little mileage on him."

Not to mention Weatherspoon had his "America's Got Talent" moment inside the meeting room.

"I had to sing Ruben Studdard's'Flying Without Wings,'" Weatherspon said. "It was good. I got some claps and finger snaps. When I first got here, when we had a little break in the meeting, it would be like, 'Roo-kie, Roo-kie,' and folks would hit on the table and the rookie would get up and do his thing. But it's a different standard now."

The light-hearted razzing of today's rookies extends beyond the linebackers' room. Seventh-round pick Devin Fuller, the receiver from UCLA, has had to tote Julio Jones' pads already.

"That's nothing compared to other teams taping guys to the goal posts," Fuller said.

Fifth-round pick Wes Schweitzer, the offensive guard from San Jose State, said the offensive linemen are required to tell jokes or state interesting facts in front of the vets.

"I always pick the facts," said Schweitzer, who aims for Ph.D. in chemistry one day. "We just had Olympic facts, and I just came up with some stuff."

Third-round pick Austin Hooper, the tight end from Stanford, hasn't had to appease veteran Jacob Tamme just yet.

"Jacob, that's the cool thing about him is he doesn't really do that with the pads," Hooper said. "None of the tight ends do. They're big boys. They just keep the pads on their shoulders and walk in. But if I'm put in a situation where I need to carry them, I know I'm a rookie."

Free safety Ricardo Allen, who is entering his third season, said he hasn't asked first-round pick and fellow starting safety Keanu Neal to carry his pads.

"It's not about what you can do for us. It's a brotherhood," Allen said. "Everybody holds their own. That's how I look at it. Every now and then, they bring water and they bring snacks, but they don't have to do anything. You're family. You're not our toy. You're not our pet. You hold your own.

"We're here to play football. We're not here to haze each other. If you're a family, you can't show levels. That's why I think it's wrong with some veteran bring rookies in and keep them kind of underneath. We don't do that here. Carrying [pads] and everything, it's for respect. We can all carry our own pads. We can all hold our own. You come in as a brother."

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