PHILADELPHIA -- A day after the offensive linemen went to dinner, the veterans were still laughing. The rookies still looked a little stunned by the whole thing.
“Top shelf, top shelf,” a veteran chanted, teasing one of the rookies.
It was 1998, and the joke was that the rookies had been tricked into buying a round of drinks. The veterans all ordered Louis XIII de Remy Martin cognac. The rookies had no idea how much it cost until the check came. The bottle, they knew, came from the top shelf.
The more things change …
The Eagles' offensive line went to Del Frisco’s, a Center City steakhouse, on Friday night. The check included a couple of rounds of Louis XIII, as well as a few expensive bottles of wine. The total, including tax and gratuity: $17,747.86.
We know this because Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson posted a photo of the check on Twitter Saturday. That was not an issue in 1998. It wouldn’t be that much of an issue even now, except for the little episode in Miami last year. After offensive lineman Jonathan Martin accused teammate Richie Incognito and others of hazing him -- including making him pay for expensive dinners -- the entire NFL is just a bit more sensitive to these sorts of activities.
Rookie dinner pic.twitter.com/2pCRsC9Al8
— Lane Johnson (@Lanejohnson65) June 7, 2014
“Since that Miami scandal, everybody’s on high alert,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said Monday. “I’m not going to get into who bought what. Bottom line, it was a team function.”
Johnson’s image of the check was retweeted over 1,200 times. The second-year player issued a followup tweet Sunday, saying “For those of you so concerned with MY business, I am grateful to be able to treat my O-line to such a great evening VOLUNTARILY.”
After Monday’s OTA practice, Johnson said that several of his teammates chipped in, as well. But it’s worth noting that Johnson was the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft. His contract was worth just under $20 million, including a $12 million signing bonus. So a little perspective is important.
Still, Kelce said, it remains traditional for rookies to pay for a big dinner. Three years ago, when Kelce was a rookie, he and two fellow rookies paid for the offensive line’s meal at a steakhouse. First round pick Danny Watkins paid more than sixth-rounder Kelce or Julian Vandervelde, a fifth-round pick.
“It’s kind of like your first bonding experience after you make the team,” Kelce said. “Nobody forced Lane to do that. This was with any profession, I feel like. You get a raise or a promotion or something, the first thing you do is take out your family, your friends, the people that you care about. I just signed a big deal, I’m going to do something for these guys. We have a tight-knit group of guys and Lane was happy to do that.”
“It ain’t no big deal to me,” Johnson said. “I should probably have given it some clarity. I just tweeted out that it was our rookie dinner. During the season, we go out to dinner every Thursday and we play credit-card roulette, so we have a lot of fun with that, too.”
The more things change .... According to the receipt, Louis XIII still reigns among NFL players. A round of five drinks added $1,375.00 to the tab. The top shelf is still pretty high.