When Trent Williams wanted to fight Chris Cooley


(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

There’s a fine line between stories of athlete hazing that get super serious — i.e., the Dolphins mess — and stories of athlete hazing that feel moderately amusing, like the 9,000 things I posted about Gilbert Arenas giving hell to the Wizards’ youngsters and filling their bathtubs with coffee, before the poopy-shoe stuff came out, which was no longer moderately amusing.

Great sentence, that one.

Anyhow, last week’s Wells report prompted Chris Cooley to talk about the climate inside the Redskins’ locker room, and how Jonathan Martin responded to his treatment from Richie Incognito and others in Miami.

“I never hazed,” Cooley said on his ESPN 980 program. “I guess I might have teased people about their mom, but no, I never hazed. I never did any rookie pranks. I never made the young tight ends do anything. I never even asked them to bring food. If I was off the wall, I hope I was never racist, either.”

Then host Al Galdi mentioned how the Dolphins’ assistant trainers had become part of the story in Miami. Cooley wasn’t surprised.

“Our assistant trainers are close with the players,” he said. “The training staff with the Washington Redskins are close. Our guys are great — our training staff I think has been fantastic — but it would be very common for them to engage in lewd conversation. Off the wall, sexual conversation would be commonplace in the training room of probably any NFL locker room.”

Then Cooley suggested that players who have a problem with how they’re being treated just need to make that clear.

“I’ll use a good example,” he said. “Trent Williams came in as a rookie and thought I had hazed him. Casey Rabach came early one day and soaked [Williams’s] backpack in water and then put it in the freezer, so everything in his backpack froze. I thought it was hysterical, and I went up to him at practice and I said I heard your backpack was frozen. And he was ready to fight me. Fred Davis had to break it up. Do you think I was going to mess with Trent Williams after that? No, I wasn’t going to mess with the guy. I mean, if he’s going to fight me over something, and I could tell that it bothered him that much, I’m going to stop.

“Now, maybe Incognito wasn’t going to stop,” Cooley went on. “But if there’s a fight or an altercation, it comes out that there’s a problem and you deal with it. Your coaching staff deals with it, the PR people deal with it, your HR people deal with it. Just say something man. If you’re getting bullied, go say something. That’s what they teach 8-year-old kids, right? Just go say something. And you’re not a tattletale. Just go say I have a problem with his behavior, it’s not good for the workplace.”

My backpack, it goes without saying, primarily contains little scribbled pieces of paper with blog ideas on it. I’m not sure what would happen if you soaked those in water and then froze them. Blog-note Popsicles, I suppose.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.

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Dan Steinberg · February 19, 2014