Amukamara, Giants discuss rookie hazing

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive back Prince Amukamara has been following the news out of Miami, where Jonathan Martin felt he had to leave the team and Richie Incognito has been suspended for his role in the apparent bullying and hazing of Martin.

Amukamara said Monday that, when he first heard the news, he immediately wondered how similar the case was to the hazing he famously endured last year when a video surfaced of him being dunked in a cold tub by teammate Jason Pierre-Paul.

"I was definitely trying to put myself in Jonathan's shoes and see if it was identical to my situation," Amukamara said.

The answer he came up with was, "No."

"Last year, with what I went through, I'm still sticking to my story. That wasn't bullying at all," Amukamara said. "That was just fun in the locker room. I definitely do feel safe in my workplace. And if I didn't feel safe in my workplace, I would have definitely said something to other players or to my coaches."

The incident with Amukamara got attention last year because Giants punter Steve Weatherford posted it on the Internet. But while Amukamara admitted he didn't like being dunked in the cold tub, he said everything was fine between him and his teammates immediately afterward and that he never felt threatened or bullied.

He said rookies who are first-round picks are generally hazed by being asked to pick up large dinner checks. ("You know they're definitely going to hit you in your pocket," he said.) And 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh said Monday that he'd been the victim of a hazing prank in which he was presented with a $10,000 dinner tab only to find out later that the real cost was $1,200, which he of course was expected to pay.

The cold-tub treatment, it turns out, is punishment for reacting the wrong way to the standard rookie treatment that young players are supposed to accept.

"In our locker room, it's simple -- do what we say and you won't get hazed," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "If you don't, you'll get thrown in the cold tub or your shirt will get cut up. But that's about it. Prince was talking back that day, so he got thrown in the cold tub. If you don't listen as a rookie, your choices are very limited."

Amukamara, of course, wasn't a rookie last year. It has been suggested that, due to his injuries and his limited playing time as a rookie in 2011, he continued to get rookie treatment in 2012. But Amukamara is also a different sort of guy -- quiet and introspective amid a traditionally loud and boisterous NFL establishment. It's possible he's the kind of guy who tends to get teased more than others, and he thinks that could be the case.

"I would say it's probably lightened up a little bit, but they're still giving me crap," Amukamara said. "The only thing is, I definitely give it back. And because I know it's not one-sided and I know I can walk away at any time, I think that helps. That actually frustrates them a little bit more sometimes, I think. As long as they don't physically harm me, that's all right.

"As a rookie, you know all the stories, and you know you're going to be given a hard time, but you know it's out of love. Everyone wants great chemistry on the team, and that was my mindset."

Amukamara said he has an understanding of what constitutes bullying and that he would have made a complaint if he felt teammates' behavior had risen to that level. Following the Miami situation from afar, he sees things that go way beyond anything he endured.

"Anything that's racial or threats, that's the definition of bullying or harassment," he said.

Pugh said his own rookie experience has been pleasant, and that teammates such as Chris Snee and David Diehl have even helped him with some of the more exorbitant dinner checks. Thomas recalled missions he had to go on as a rookie.

"They had me bring hard brushes, soft brushes, medium brushes, all kinds of stuff, picking up dinners," Thomas said. "I think me and Kenny [Phillips], we split a $3,000 tab. But I remember going in a snowstorm to get breakfast sandwiches and then getting in trouble for not putting them in front of the lockers. But at the end of the day, you're a grown man. You've got to, at some point, say, 'That's enough.'"

Knowing where that line is would seem to be the tricky issue, though it seems extremely clear based on the reports of the voicemails he left Martin that Incognito crossed all kind of lines by quite a bit. Compared to that, anything that's gone on with the Giants feels like little more than fun and games.

"There is a lot of peer pressure involved, and there is a lot of competitiveness involved, and if it does go over the line here, we get involved," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We're all policing it. We have assistant coaches, players in leadership roles, and if for whatever reason I have to get involved and talk to someone about their behavior, yay or nay, that's what happens."

That did happen last year with the Amukamara incident, though the feeling around the Giants seems to be that it only did because the video was made public.

"If I had made a public outcry or something, that would have made it bullying," Amukamara said. "But right after I was in the tub, everything was OK. I think if it affected the way I was at work, or the way I interacted with the other players, that would have been different. But I never felt that way."