Tuesday, August 5, 2008
By Brett Grassmuck
Mequon, Wis. - The Rams broke the huddle following Monday morning’s practice with the unusual chant of ‘mohawks.’
Sure enough, by Monday evening, the rookies’ hairdos had transformed into mohawks.
“I’m kind of feeling it a little bit,” wide receiver Donnie Avery said. “At first, I was kind of discouraged about it, but it’s growing on me. Torry’s (Holt) making us go touch it up today, so I have to get used to it.”
Each year, when the rookies get into camp, the veterans have to put them through certain rituals to welcome them to the NFL. The rookies mohawks are just the latest in a line of hazing for this season’s rookie class.
“It comes with the territory,” wide receiver Keenan Burton said. “As a rookie, you have to do everything that you’re told to do. At the same time, you have to set your pride aside and be very humble.”
The Mohawks are not the first fashion statement that was made by the rookies. Last week, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa overheard first-round defensive end Chris Long and seventh-round linebacker David Vobora talking about shaving their fully-grown facial hair into mustaches in time for last Saturday’s scrimmage.
Tinoisamoa stood on the bench in the locker room and announced a new rule: all rookies must wear mustaches.
“Some of the guys looked at us like, ‘Thanks, we appreciate that,’” Vobora said. “We had fun with it. A lot of the guys hadn’t shaved, so we cleaned it up and brought the ‘stache out. There’s something empowering about a mustache.”
Rams coach Scott Linehan caught a glance of the mustachioed Long, Vobora and offensive lineman John Greco and said they looked like something out of ‘the Village People.’
“Every time I’d see (Linehan), he walks through when we stretch, I’d just smile and he’d just shake his head like, ‘Oh man, that’s dirty,’” Vobora said.
When the Rams caught wind of the rookies hirsute adornments, they immediately called in the St. Louis-based American Mustache Institute for some ‘consulting.’
“Our work with the Rams will help them harness this energy to improve defensive reads, better wrap-up at the point of impact when making tackles and look good doing it,” said Dr. Aaron Perlut, executive director of the American Mustache Institute. “This will be especially important for outdoor away games as the temperatures grow colder, and allow the Rams to more easily intimidate pathetically bare-lipped teams.”
During dinner through the first week of camp, the rookies were forced to serenade the veterans each night as they ate. Avery turned in an underwhelming performance of ‘Amazing Grace,’ while Vobora and Long went completely over the top with a performance of ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,’ sung to a Concordia training assistant.
“There’s really nothing that Chris and I won’t do, especially together,” Vobora said. “We’ve become pretty good friends. People laugh because it’s the first pick and the last pick. We get along really well, and it’s always a fun time when we get together.”
The rookie hazing is all in good fun, and the young guys realize that it’s their right of passage into the world of the NFL. In just one short year, they will be on the other side, creating rules that next year’s rookie class has to follow.
It’s just a part of the game, part of being a rookie,” Avery said. “It just shows that the guys really care about us. They make us do things out of the ordinary to build team chemistry and to fit in.”
At least the Mohawks will be a lot cooler in the significantly warmer Tennessee weather.
SHIPPING OUT: Concordia University’s slogan is ‘It’s cooler by the lake.’ The Rams will find that out first hand when they leave their lakefront dorm room for the music city of Nashville, Tenn., today.
The Rams will lock horns with the Titans twice on Wednesday and twice again on Thursday. They will enter their normal pre-game mode with a walk-through on Friday and open the preseason at the Titans’ LP Field on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practices will take place at 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. at Baptist Sports Park, the Titans practice facility. Those practices are open to the public.
INJURY REPORT: The Rams list of walking wounded is dwindling, as just four players were unable to participate in Tuesday morning’s practice. Wide receiver Donnie Avery (pelvic bone), cornerback Fakhir Brown (shoulder), tight end Anthony Becht (hamstring) and defensive end Victor Adeyanju (finger) sat out Tuesday.