Steelers rookie Jarvis Jones laughed a little when asked if he was hazed at all amid his rookie season in Pittsburgh.
It wasn't a chuckle of remembrance as much as the concept itself seemed odd, considering his surroundings. The recent accusations of hazing involving Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito and offensive tackle Jonathan Martin triggered the question as Jones met with Behind The Steel Curtain for an interview after the rookie spent some time at the Southwestern Veterans Center in Pittsburgh as part of the Wounded Warriors Project.
"I don't want to speak on the Miami case, but as far as Steelers organization, we don't do stuff like that."
Jones, a SUBWAY Famous Fan, said the veterans with whom he visited were asking him questions, but he wanted a chance to ask them questions as well. Jones, spoke confidently and purposefully, praised both the military veterans he was visiting as well as the veteran players on his own team - pointing out again hazing to the extent Incognito is accused of doesn't happen, but team bonding through harmless pranks still goes on.
"I think the worst that happened is someone's car got popcorned," Jones said. "Like, the car was filled entirely with popcorn." Jones wouldn't admit who the victim was.
"It wasn't me though," he laughed.
The Steelers are known around the league for a positive mentoring relationship between the younger players and veterans. Jones is currently splitting time with veteran Jason Worilds at right outside linebacker, and says their relationship is very supportive.
"When Jason comes off the field, I tell him what I'm seeing," Jones said. "He does the same thing with me. It's like that with all our guys."
The Steelers are heading into their third consecutive seasson with mediocre sack numbers. They currently rank 29th in the NFL with 13 sacks. League-leading Kansas City has 36 sacks, which is one less than the Steelers had in all of 2012, and one more than they had in 2011.
Jones was brought in to help boost those numbers, just maybe not in his first season. He has yet to register his first sack, and Worilds has taken over the majority of snaps from the position. Jones is upbeat - as much as one can be - about the demotion - stressing "getting to work" and "just keep chopping wood" as reasons he'll overcome his slump.
"I feel like I'm a productive player, I just haven't been allowing myself to make some plays," he said. "I'm kind of beating myself up over it, but I'm just going to continue to learn.
"The biggest thing is to continue to learn. It's a challenge, but it's more mental than physical. Everyone here, these guys are all really good. There aren't any plays off."
A common lamentation of rookie players in the NFL is the speed of the game. Jones spoke more about the mental speed than the physical, pointing out, in his words, the college game, if a player gets beat on something, you might see that play again later in the game. In the NFL, said Jones, you may see it on the next play.
"Adjustments get made really quickly, and right there on the sideline," he said. "There isn't much time to adjust. They'll hit you with it right there."
The Steelers are at the midpoint of their season, sitting at 2-6 and in last place in the AFC North. Another off-mention aspect of being a rookie in the NFL is the alleged "Rookie Wall," the theory rookies - even ones from top schools, like Jones, a Georgia product - play shorter seasons in college than they do in the pros. The daily grind is difficult, and with much longer practice schedules, rookies allegedly get burned out, mentally and physically by end end of the year.
"The veterans do a great job of helping us with that," Jones said. "They show us how to take care of our bodies, what foods to put in our bodies and how to stretch and get acupuncture, things like that."
He noted free safety Ryan Clark, defensive end Brett Keisel and Ike Taylor as three players he's asked and receive advice from on such issues. Between the three, there is approximately 30 years of NFL experience.
"They've done a great job of allowing us to keep our bodies up," Jones said.
The Steelers take on the Buffalo Bills at 1 p.m. ET Sunday. The game will feature Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn, a 2012 second round draft pick and former teammate of Jones's at Georgia. Jones said doesn't have any particular conversations he plans to share with Glenn during the game, but is impressed with Glenn - one of the better left tackles in the NFL in just his second year.
"I don't think there's much I can do to him," Jones said with a laugh. "He's a big guy. Really big guy. I'm just going to go out there and make plays.
"That's my mindset."
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