No matter how much you try and coddle them or prepare them for the real world almost universally they all end up learning the hard way.
I saw the potential for a problem at minicamp and tried to head it off at the pass with rookie tight end Fred Davis. During an interview with Davis, I asked him which football player he used to emulate as a kid and his answer was Michael Irvin. I quickly reminded him that he’s a member of the Washington Redskins now and answering “I used to pretend I was one of the hated rivals” is probably not the best route to take on his first day in town. We both laughed, and he quickly changed his tune to Jerry Rice and promised to stick with Rice’s name in future interviews.
Fast forward to last week, where it seems Redskins rookie wide out Devin Thomas won the 2008 Rookie Madden Bowl. Thomas competed against such names as Matt Ryan, Brian Brohm and Rashard Mendenhall and came out on top, calling the win “the greatest moment of his NFL career to date.” Here’s the problem – Thomas used the Dallas Cowboys in the video game tournament.
I guess no one sat him down (shame on you, Redskins media relations) and spelled it out. Something like “Hey Devin, don’t use the Cowboys when you play in a video game tournament that people will find out about. That’d be like us making you wear Michigan colors during a TV interview in East Lansing.”
I (half-jokingly) explain to folks that I’ve been a ‘Skins fan for so long that my parents put me in Dallas diapers and told me to aim for the star. During my Army time, when I was stationed in Texas for two and a half years, I would make it a point to be at the local sports bar the minute the doors opened every Sunday to ensure the Redskins game ended up on the biggest Plasma screen in the bar (which meant the Dallas fans had to watch the home game on one of the dinky TV screens above the bar). Sure, I nearly got my teeth kicked in on a weekly basis by pissed off Cowboys fans, but it was worth it. That’s what this rivalry is all about.
I most likely won’t get another chance to chat with the rookies until training camp, but in the meantime I am pleading with someone at Redskins Park to please sit these guys down and brief them on exactly who George Allen was and what this rivalry means to this town. If they’re going to be a part of the biggest rivalry in professional football, they need to know what’s expected of them.