It’s a brand-new NFL training camp season which means: More unique rookie hazing rituals.
Some teams have been downright mean to their new players over the years, like when the 2010 Broncos made Tim Tebow don a Friar Tuck haircut during his first few days in the league.
Or, in 2013 when Texans rookie K.J. Dillon was handed a $16,255.20 dinner tab as part of his team initiation.
But, perhaps none were worse than what Bengals safety Lyle Blackwood did in the mid 1970s. He reportedly baited several unsuspecting rookies into fake rendezvous with a “sexy married woman” only to have a friend, posing as the wronged husband jump out at the meeting place while shooting a rifle (with blanks, of course)…
Luckily for some of the new 49ers, one of their baptism ceremonies this season has been tame in comparison and may actually benefit the team in the long-run.
Dubbed “The Rookie Hype Machine,” a group of veteran Niners have nominated a different rookie each day to help energize fans before practice at the team’s facility in Santa Clara, California.
Right tackle Mike McGlinchey got things started last Friday when he electrified about 2,000 devotees in the stands. Fellow rookie offensive linemen Coleman Shelton, Najee Toran and several incoming defensive backs pumped up the crowds in subsequent practices.
This kind of spectator/player experience can provide a great amount of synergy for both the players and the fans, a vital ingredient for future success especially for a team like the 49ers fresh into an early rebuild.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said last week he enjoys practicing before the fans and the experience always seems to galvanize him. “It makes practice so much more fun when you have the fans watching and it kicks us up a notch and we start going that much harder.”
As for the fan base, creating interest and enthusiasm will always help to rev up a winning atmosphere and can inspire brand-new supporters to jump on the bandwagon. In an age of increased competition from other sports and media, it’s vital for NFL teams to retain their supporters and attract others.
This all seems a better idea than just having rookies hand out Rita’s ices to other players, like the Philadelphia Eagles are doing this year. Why not get something out of the annual rookie baptism of fire?
For San Francisco, The Rookie Hype Machine is a smart way to turn an otherwise meaningless initiation ritual into one of the reasons the 49ers may just finish with a winning season for the first time in several years.
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