On the inside of the back cover, Cole has a chart with tally marks that indicate the number of team violations each fellow inside linebacker has committed and the corresponding fines.
Cole is one of the team's few unofficial "fine commissioners," which also include outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett, nose tackle Brandon Dunn and guard Greg Mancz. The rules and different categories vary between position groups, but the linebackers and offensive line agree on one fine: If a player is doing an interview and doesn’t shout out at least two of his teammates, he gets put down into a fine category.
Players have different techniques they use when talking about their teammates during interviews, including everything from getting it over with in the first question to relying on their teammates yelling at them to remember.
The worst offender?
“I’m going to go with B-Mac [inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney],” Cole said. “He has the same thing that he says every time, and then he forgets. I don’t know what lines he says, but he says the same lines every single time and then he forgets about us.
“Can’t forget about your teammates. That’s the most important thing. This is a team sport. It’s not individual. We’re not playing tennis out here."
Center Nick Martin looked around the locker room when asked about being fined.
“I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about that,” Martin said, before suggesting to talk to Mancz because “he’s the guy who always checks and makes sure.”
Mancz declined to be interviewed about his role as a fine commissioner.
The outside linebackers are more laid back about fines than the inside linebackers, Scarlett said, but the OLBs do have one violation that will be given a fine every time.
“We have one strong rule: no snitching,” Scarlett said. “If you snitch, it’s a fine. If you tell on your brother, it’s a fine.”
The defensive line doesn’t observe rules for not shouting out a teammate, but the D-linemen do have a long list of fine categories that position coach Anthony Weaver keeps track of in an Excel spreadsheet. If a player is late to a meeting, he is fined $250. Dunn says the “disrespect fine” of $50 applies mostly to rookies. And the biggest fine levied to date was for $500, for farting in the meeting room. Nose tackle D.J. Reader said that has happened only once, by a player who is no longer on the team. “We don’t play around with that,” he said.
If a player wants to dispute a fine in the defensive line room, it goes to a vote by the veterans. It is a show of hands system. But if you lose the vote? The fine doubles.
The fines usually go toward position dinners and snacks during the season, but an unusually heavy start to the fine season has the defensive line rethinking their plan for an end-of-season dinner.
“It’s not even looking like a dinner now,” Dunn said. “It’s moved on to a trip.”
But while some position groups take it more seriously than others -- cornerback Johnathan Joseph said that fines really aren't doled out in the defensive backs meeting room any more -- ultimately the fines are an entertaining outlet.
“It’s not even meant to be a punishment," Cole said. "It’s more for fun, and at the end of the day, the fines always go to some sort of dinner and everyone always pitches in.
"It keeps us close and keeps us thinking about each other.”