OXNARD, Calif. – The ritual of a rookie carrying veterans’ shoulder pads has returned to Cowboys training camp.
“It's part of the game and part of being a rookie,” said Olawale, an undrafted free agent who was a little-used wide receiver at North Texas. “I take it in stride.”
Nevertheless, it’s a noteworthy sight because this is the first time the decades-old NFL ritual has been seen in a Cowboys camp since Dez Bryant refused to carry Roy Williams' pads a couple of summers ago. That incident, involving two of the Cowboys’ biggest lightning rods, turned into quite a media firestorm.
Former coach Wade Phillips responded by announcing that his team would no longer take part in the longtime tradition.
During his first camp as a head coach a year ago, Jason Garrett declared that initiation rites that demeaned rookies were forbidden for his team. Garrett said he didn’t mind “harmless things,” but no rookies carried shoulder pads in last year’s camp, and the team’s tradition of veteran offensive linemen giving their rookie counterparts ridiculous haircuts ended.
The tradition of rookies singing songs in front of the team has continued for the Cowboys. Olawale said he sang “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” theme song for the team.
And, in Olawale’s case, carrying a couple of extra pairs of shoulder pads was about as harmless as it can get.
“I saw Felix do it, so I said, ‘Hey, go ahead and take mine, too,’” Murray said. “I’m a little tired today, but they’re doing a great job for us. … He just took ‘em. He’s a good guy, a good young guy.”