Thursday, 25 August 2011 05:28

Past New Orleans Saints Training Camp Haze Blues

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The most dangerous place for Saints players at training camp at UW La Crosse in La  Crosse, Wisc. was not the practice field in 1989, it was the dorm.

Rookie hazing in the NFL has existed and it's been mostly good-natured, rarely more than forcing them to sing a song, carry veterans pad, or taping a rookie to a goal post. Initiation incidents went too far at the Saints camp that summer when rookie tight end Cam Cleland and defensive tackle Jeff Danish were injured after being gang-rushed by teammates.

Cleland sustained an eye injury after being clubbed by a bag of coins and Danish was hospitalized after he was shoved through a glass window.

If was a hazing ritual that still defies explanation. Saints veterans forced the rookies to put a pillow case over their heads and run a gamut of older teammates, who smacked them with the bags of coins.

"My worst street fight in New York when I was a little kid wasn't that bad," Danish told the New York Times.

Danish won an undisclosed sum after suing the Saints, an assistant coach and a half-dozen players for more than $650,000 in damages.

The incident occurred despite an anti-hazing warning from coach Mike Ditka at a team meeting on the last night of camp. Just 5 1/2 hours later, the veterans ignored him, an indication Ditka had lost control over the team.

Five players were scheduled to go through the gamut, but it ended when Danish was hurt and needed 13 stitches to close wounds of his left arm. His injury spared the other players from having to go through this part of the initiation.

Danish played a few days after being sliced, but had to come out after five plays when his wound reopened.  He was waived two days later.

"I thought the least the Saints could do was to wait until after the wounds had healed to release me."

Ditka said rookie hazing was an act of cowardice. His Saints went 6-10 that season.

The incident forced many teams to slack off on hazing or stop it all together.

Reggie Bush had a $62 million contract and the attention of the sporting world, but that didn't exempt him from rookie hazing. He carried pads for his teammates and had to perform a song for the veterans and other rookies.

Last year, offensive tackle Charles Brown had to sing "Lean on Me" for the veterans and other rookies.

The Colts eliminated rookie hazing. "You've seen all the highlights with the rookies, but we don't do that with the Colts," Peyton Manning told John Ochsner of Fanhouse. "We don't haze them because we don't treat them as rookies. We expect them to play this year and to play well."

SOME hither, others yon: Saints rookie Joseph Morgan, who is fighting for one or possibly two roster spots at wide receiver, got to meet Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame baseball player and TV baseball analyst this week at training camp. Morgan has scored two long touchdowns in two exhibition games, but said he's only as good as his last practice....Raiders coach Hue Jackson on his conversations with Oakland owner Al Davis, 82: "They're great. They're daily. They're constant. They're unbelievable."...

Former Saints quarterback Danny Wuerffel is still dealing with the effects of a rare disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS).  While the former Heisman Trophy winner has not yet fully recovered, he continues to make strides in the right direction. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Wuerffel's assistant, Sara Pace, says Wuerffel was able to fulfill a speaking engagement in Tuscaloosa three weeks ago. Although Wuerffel hasn't posted an update on his website for Desire Street Ministries, for which he's executive director, he will have a doctor's follow-up this week and expects to participate in the inaugural Desire Cup golf tournament in late October. Our thoughts are with Wuerffel and his family as he continues to battle this disorder...

Bill Parcells, on turning 70 the other day: "That's pretty good. Considering I thought I'd be shot or hung before I was 40."...Name of the week: Benton "Muchie" Legaux, Cincinnati quarterback...If you want tickets for the Saints/Titans preseason game at the Superdome on next Thursday night, you can buy some by calling the Saints Ticket Office. The tickets were returned by the Titans. If you want 10 or more tickets, call (504) 731-1700...Parting thought: "Stop staring at me when I'm invisible."

by Ed Staton

(Visit Louisiana Sports t\ to order you Matt Ingram jerseys and LSU/Oregon game shirts).



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