In Miami, Dolphins players defended Richie Incognito, the teammate whose allegedly abusive conduct toward Jonathan Martin triggered an NFL investigation and ripped open the inner workings of an NFL locker room in a way that makes “Hard Knocks” look like a mild sit-com.
Those who know Martin spoke up in support of him on Wednesday as he remains with his family in California and is working up a statement. Dolphins players, available to the media for the first time since the story broke, supported the suspended Incognito on Wednesday. “I think if you had asked Jon Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would have said Richie Incognito,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “The first guy to stand up for Jonathan when anything went down on the field, any kind of tussle, Richie was the first guy there. When we would hang out off the field, outside football, who was together? Richie and Jon. I’m not in those guys’ shoes, I can’t explain what’s going on.”
On Wednesday, the Sun Sentinel reported that coaches had told Incognito to “toughen up” Martin, who starred at Stanford with Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and Coby Fleener. It was believed that Incognito took that directive too far, becoming verbally abusive and using racially slurs in voice mails and text messages.
Tyson Clabo said Incognito and Martin were “thick as thieves.” “I’ve been here long enough to know that if Martin had a problem, he didn’t show it,” he said (via the Miami Herald). “… I think that if you have a problem with somebody … [you should] stand up and be a man.”
Incognito was suspended Sunday night by team management, whose conduct came under further scrutiny Wednesday when Pro Football Talk reported that, when Martin’s agent complained about Incognito’s treatment of his client, he was told by General Manager Jeff Ireland that Martin should “punch” Incognito. The Dolphins are not commenting on that and the NFL appointed Ted Wells, a New York-based criminal lawyer, to determine who did and said what and when. Maybe he should start with the old line from the New York Giants’ legendary George Young: “We arere not in the business of well-adjusted human beings.”
Meanwhile, the layers keep being peeled back. Lydon Murtha, an offensive lineman who was with the Dolphins from 2009 until the 2012 preseason (when Martin was a rookie), wrote on Peter King’s MMQB today that the code is broken and it’s impossible to know just yet where Incognito, Martin and the Dolphins go from here.
Incognito was made a scapegoat for the hell coming down on the Dolphins organization, which in turn said it knew nothing about any so-called hazing. That’s the most outlandish lie of this whole thing. The coaches know everything. The coaches know who’s getting picked on and in many cases call for that player to be singled out. Any type of denial on that side is ridiculous. I have friends on more than a dozen teams, and it’s the same everywhere. What people want to call bullying is something that is never going away from football. This is a game of high testosterone, with men hammering their bodies on a daily basis. You are taught to be an aggressive person, and you typically do not make it to the NFL if you are a passive person. There are a few, but it’s very hard. Playing football is a man’s job, and if there’s any weak link, it gets weeded out. It’s the leaders’ job on the team to take care of it.
The most unfortunate thing about this situation is the consequence it will have on the careers of both men. Richie’s marked himself now as a racist and a bigot, and unfortunately that could be the end of it. Martin is on the opposite end of the spectrum, but no more likely than Incognito to return to the NFL if he wants. In going to the media with his problem, Martin broke the code, and it shows that he’s not there for his teammates and he’s not standing up for himself. There might be a team that gives him a chance because he’s a good person, but the players will reject him. They’ll think, If I say one thing he’s going to the press. He’ll never earn the respect of teammates and personnel in the NFL because he didn’t take care of business the right way.
What fans should understand is that every day in the NFL there are battles between players worse than what’s being portrayed. This racial slur would be a blip on the radar if everything that happens in the locker room went public. But all over the league, problems are hashed out in house. Either you talk about it or you get physical. But at the end of the day, you handle it indoors.
Not any more.