Lions policy on hazing comes from top

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – In one of his first meetings with his new team this season, Detroit Lions rookie Joseph Fauria was able to breathe a little easier.

His coach, Jim Schwartz, addressed the issue of hazing when it comes to rookies and essentially said aside from some typical stuff, it would not be allowed. In other words, Fauria was glad he was going to be able to keep his hair.

So the worst thing Fauria said he has had to do is carry some pads, some helmets and he still owes tight end Brandon Pettigrew a sandwich from Bellacino’s.

“That’s part of guys sort of paying their dues in the NFL,” Schwartz said Tuesday. “But we don’t allow hazing the way you would consider hazing in training camp.”

That, the players say, starts with Schwartz. He is pretty straight forward with his players about what he will allow and what he won’t stand for. There’s a huge difference between doing menial tasks that a lot of entry-level employees in any profession end up doing, from food runs to buying coffee, to some of the things that have been discussed in Miami, including racially inappropriate text messages.

Schwartz, and the older players, want to make sure there is more of a rite of passage into the league, not a level of intimidation that could leave players cowering or unable to do their job effectively. The NFL, at its root, is a very big business.

“We’re not a fraternity,” Schwartz said. “But everybody has gone through, coaches have gone through getting coffee and doing things like that.

“I don’t think there is any harm in stuff like that but the bottom line is we’re expecting everybody to do their job. Anything that takes away from a player’s ability to do his job or a coach’s ability to do his job is something that we don’t want to happen.”

Hence the early message in one of the first meetings Fauria had when he agreed to sign with the Lions as an undrafted free agent.

“[Rookies] are important to the development of this team,” center Dominic Raiola said. “That’s our future, that’s their future. You want them to succeed. You want this team to succeed.”

A lot of that is on the Detroit players. The coaches, for the most part, are not around the players as much. The players are the ones hanging out in the locker room, talking with each other all the time, working at various training sessions.

So what they see might not mirror what coaches hear. So they believe they have to watch out for each other if something looks to be out of line.

“It falls on the players and you’ve got to police it,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “There’s a decent way to do everything. Even if you are doing hazing, there’s a decent way to do it.

“I feel like this is part of being a rookie, but we still love you like a brother. That’s a way to do it versus saying it’s part of being a rookie and you’re not equal to us.”

At least one rookie, Fauria, said Detroit hasn’t come close to jumping over a line of decency or making the rookies feel as if they do not belong. Again, that might be because it starts from the top of the coaching part of the organization.

If Schwartz won’t allow it, it becomes much less likely to happen.

“There is a line,” Fauria said. “And we don’t cross it here.”