We’ve all heard about the NFL’s “uniform police.” But when you see articles about them (like this one, which I linked to a few weeks back), they tend to give boring NFL party-line quotes. Being a company man is how you get that job in the first place.
So I raised an eyebrow when a reader named Danny (who prefers that his last name not be used here) recently contributed some Ticker material and concluded his note with the following: “As a former New York Jets personnel intern, one of my unofficial jobs on game day was to take a look at the players and see who was running the risk of fines. Aaron Glenn [shown at right] was probably the most notorious.”
Naturally, I was intrigued, so I followed up with some questions. Here’s how our correspondence unfolded:
Uni Watch: Got any good stories to share regarding your experiences?
Danny: My uniform code obsession started when I noticed how much Aaron Glenn was being fined week after week for violations. I was having dinner with a couple of the players when I brought up the subject, and they asked if I would help keep them (and the other guys) within the guidelines. After three weeks (two of them being in the preseason), I just gave up, because of course they chose fashion over compliance. I felt like a nagging mother-in-law telling them to “make sure your gloves are strapped,” “your whites are too high,” and “your pants are too short.” The lesson I learned was that, as always, is it that is better to look good than to not get fined by the league.
UW: When was this — what year? What was your staff position at the time? And what violations was Aaron Glenn being fined for?
D: I actually took notice in 1995, before I started working with the team. I had previously noticed that the Jets were one of the teams that had a different numeral “2” for their linemen’s jerseys and the position players’ jerseys, and that had always bugged me. Then, when I started in 1997 as an operations assistant, I was fascinated by the equipment room. My duties included everything from picking up players’ wives from the airport and making sure the golf carts were full of gas to making sure the jars of vitamins in the weight room were filled and being a security guard at the cafeteria. We were called “honchos,” and there was between six and eight of us. If something needed doing, we did it.
One morning I noticed the poster in the locker room stating the NFL’s uniform regulations (which you’ve linked to a few times). Then I noticed a Newsday article on uni violations, which centered mostly on Deion Sanders, but it also had a section on Aaron Glenn. If I remember correctly, he led the league in uni-related fines that season. He was being find for high whites, unstrapped gloves, unbuckled chin straps, and short pants.
After reading the article, I did some research through old media guides and yearbooks to see how different players were wearing sweatbands, socks, gloves, chin straps, and so forth. I thought there was something oddly cool about the NFL having a standard issue of dress, and even cooler that some players were consciously violating the code in order to look fashion-forward.
UW: Tell me a little more about how your “police” activities worked. Like, when would you approach the players — during pregame warmups? In the locker room?
D: My policing activities were pretty simple. Since I was a mere peon at the time, I wasn’t going to get too visible in the locker room, because I didn’t want to become an annoyance and get fired. But my game day duties had me walking around the locker room anyway, so when I noticed something in violation of the code, I’d walk by the player and say a simple, “Hey, make sure those whites don’t go up too high, they may fine you,” or “Try and keep those pads tucked in your sleeve, they’re fining guys for that,” and so forth. Most of the guys just ignored me, because they just didn’t care about being fined and were more worried about playing the game. The last thing I wanted to do on a game day was distract any of these guys, but a few of them didn’t mind me being their uni-Jiminy Cricket. I also didn’t want to get on the bad side of the equipment managers — those guys really run the show on game day and could be quite ornery when people got in their way.
UW: Did you agree with all the regulations, or did you feel silly trying to enforce some of them?
D: I definitely don’t agree with all the regulations. I think it would be awful if all the players looked exactly the same. I understand the chin strap rule (which I wish I had obeyed myself, because I suffered a lot of concussions while playing football in high school), and I understand that the league wants to keep players looking somewhat uniform, but I think they take it a bit too far. I think guys should be allowed to wear high whites [not much of an issue these days, since most players now prefer low whites — PL]. I also think they should be allowed to wear team-colored tape and team-colored chin straps.
UW: Any other good stories to share?
D: My best uni-related Jets story comes from when I had been with them in 1997 as an intern. To preface the story, I was recruited by some 1A and 1AA schools to play QB and/or WR but wound up not being able to play after suffering my sixth concussion in my last high school game. After practice during training camp, I would sometimes stay on the field with the young QBs and run some pass routes if they needed some extra bodies. I had made a few acrobatic catches one day and the fans who stayed cheered for me and some of the coaches thought I was ridiculous for trying so hard.
Cut to the very next day — I was cleaning up coffee cups and soda cans in the “war room” after a pro personnel meeting and went into office of a friend I’d made on the marketing staff (I’d routinely hang out in her office after team meetings as she was wrapping up her day). She told me she had just gotten the prototype for the old-school unis the team was going to switch to for the next season (what they wear now). One of the unis was my size, so she asked me to go to the equipment room and get some pads so I could model it for her.
For reasons you would completely understand, I shot downstairs and was downright giddy about putting on the uniform. Once I got all the pads in (I put everything in but hip and butt pads) and the uniform on, I was striking Heisman poses and living out my NFL dream (well, as much as it can be lived out in an office building with no one else around). Lost in my own little world, I had forgotten that the special teams meeting was about to break and that the office I was in was directly across the hall from the auditorium where it was being held. So before I could get the uniform off, the players began to walk by and the ST coach, Mike Sweatman, who had a very dry sense of humor, saw me and let out a chuckle. He then came into the office and said with a smile, “Son, I know you made some nice catches the other day, but it’s just not going to happen for you. Stick to cutting up game films and getting coffee.” We all had a good laugh at my expense, and I took the uniform off.
Coincidentally, I had three drops the next time I ran routes after practice.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Here’s a closer view of the California State Firefighters Association logo, which the Kings are wearing as a patch (thanks, Teebz). … This season’s NHL All-Star Game jerseys will apparently look like this and thiszzzzzzzz. … Yikes. … Check out this NOB: first initial and a “Jr.” at the end (great find by Don Schafer). … The Baseball World Cup is taking place, and Cuba has found a new place for logo creep: on the tips of their belts (good spot by Jeremy Brahm,). … Attention AJ Connelly, and anyone else who owns a Nike chinstrap: You might want to switch to another model (thanks, Bryan). … “ESPN was mistakenly using the St. John’s logo instead of St. Joe’s at the beginning of the Syracuse/St. Joe’s game Tuesday night,” writes Jason Farmand. “They soon made the correction.” … Indiana’s throwback uniforms for this weekend will look like this and this. … Kevin Youkilis has shaved for a good cause. … There’s a great video clip here of a Vikings/Eagles game from 1978. Someone on the Chris Creamer board noticed that the Vikes were wearing black left-sleeve armbands (additional views here, here, and here). Anyone know who was being memorialized?