NEWS

NFL begins team seminars aimed at changing culture in locker room

The NFL Competition Committee's plan to change the culture in NFL locker rooms begins today.

* TheMMQB.com's Peter King reported that the NFL will start its culture change campaign today with the Atlanta Falcons attending a one-hour presentation that will stop at all 32 teams. The sessions come after the Ted Wells investigation found harassment as an issue in the Miami Dolphins locker room last season.

NFL executive vice president and chief human resources officer Robert Gulliver will lead a three-person team and will meet with players, coaches and selected executives. He will be joined by former NFL players Patrick Kerney and Donovin Darius.


"We believe the moment is now to really effect change," Gulliver said over the weekend. "This is not a Band-Aid from [NFL offices at] 345 Park Avenue in New York. This is the chance to start a dialogue about what a more respectful locker-room culture is all about. While we have rules and policies on the books that talk about the workplace, what is also important is the culture that reinforces the rules and policies. We believe that a more respectful culture is part of a winning culture."


Gulliver won’t make every trip. Nor will the same former players be at every stop; the league’s newly trained “Ambassadors,” scores of recently retired players drilled to instruct their ex-peers on the workplace environment, will fan out to different teams this month. Today, the Atlanta presentation will be about an hour long, and former Falcon defensive end Kerney—now the league’s vice president of player benefits—and Darius, the former Jaguar, will be there to help Gulliver drive home the point about respecting the guy next to you in the locker room.


What can be accomplished in an hour? It’s a logical and skeptical question. "It's to start the dialogue, to provoke conversation," said Kerney. "As players, we need to understand we’re all going to be out of there soon and into the real world. If we continue some of the behavior of the past, we’re enclosing ourselves in the bubble even further."


* Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant told Fox Sports that he was forced to pay a $55,000 dinner tab as a rookie hazing.


"The way I look at that is some guys do it just to be [expletive]," Bryant said during the taping. "I paid $55,000 for a dinner, and it struck me the wrong way. I could've easily went off on every last one of them, but I didn't. I kept myself together, and I wanted to change that. So you know what I did, went out there and did my thing. Now they're allowing me to call the shots."


Bryant, a first-round pick in 2010, signed a five-year, $11.8 million rookie deal with $8.6 million guaranteed.


* USA Today Sports reported that Carolina coach Ron Rivera has tried to change the culture in his locker room over the years.


Rivera -- who earned NFL Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Panthers to the NFC South crown in 2013 -- once had the same view coaches needed not to set foot in the locker room.


Now he considers such reluctance as his biggest mistake during his first two years. He says he was unaware of some locker room issues that festered.


"I didn't know because I wasn't there," he told the audience. "That was my fault. It opened my eyes. I have a vested interest to be in there."


... Typically, Rivera said, the Panthers locker room gets a lot quieter when he visits. He's urged general manager Dave Gettleman to make such rounds, too, and joked the locker room chatter decreases even more when the GM passes through.


-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor

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