Long before Jonathan Martin or Richie Incognito joined the NFL, there were uncomfortable locker room rituals.
And to hear former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer tell it, it was no more comfortable for him in Chicago than it was for Martin in Miami.
Hillenmeyer told WSCR 670 that in 2004, the year he filled in for an injured Brian Urlacher, he “hated coming into work” because of the treatment he got from veteran center Olin Kreutz.
“Because he was a jerk,” Hillenmeyer explained. “He was riding me because I was the third-year guy, or second-year guy, trying to fill in for a superstar. So I can relate in a sense that, you’re going to have people in your workplace that you don’t necessarily like. . . .
“Olin led in a certain way. I would go to the grave acknowledging that he thought that everything he was always doing was in the best interest of the team. I don’t want that to come across like I’m admonishing him or saying that he was a bad leader. Because he was a great leader, but at the same time, when you have a room full of alpha males who were all the best player on their high school teams and one of the best players on their college team, to get everyone to buy in and fall into line, you need people that take leadership roles in an aggressive way like that.”
Hillenmeyer didn’t offer specifics, but said that management has a vested interest in having the locker room under control, and was willing to turn a blind eye to certain things.
“If you’re [former Bears General Manager] Jerry Angelo or you’re [former Bears coach] Lovie Smith, as much as you might not approve of some of the methods, you like the results,” Hillenmeyer said. “People were going to come to OTAs and they weren’t going to have loose lips with the media, they weren’t going to do a lot of things to damage the locker room – not because they didn’t want to, but because they were scared of Olin.
“You need guys like that in the locker room, and coaches tend to just let it happen unless there’s something egregious going on that’s right under their nose.”
While 31 other teams had a chance to stand up yesterday and tell reporters how Miami’s problems wouldn’t happen in their place, Hillenmeyer’s story, and rationale, is probably far more common than anyone would want to admit.