Veteran Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said Tuesday he blames the senior players in the Miami Dolphins’ locker room for the issues that led to guard Richie Incognito being suspended by that team after sending profane and racially insensitive text and voice messages to teammate Jonathan Martin.
“I was very disappointed in that locker room down in Miami because when you hear the reports that are coming out, when you look at it, here you have a young guy, second year in the league, and I’m sure what’s happening to him was happening as a rookie as well,” Fletcher said at Redskins Park. “It’s for somebody, some veterans in that group in that locker room, to come up and step up and put a stop to that.
“Here you had a guy, I know Incognito is the one who is, I guess, the main culprit. But I think probably he’s not the only guy that will end up coming out as being a guy who was giving Jonathan Martin a hard time, going beyond what the norm is of what you see as far as maybe making a rookie carry your shoulder pads, bring in breakfast sandwiches, things like that. But what seemed like was going on there was beyond hazing, beyond your normal rookie-type deals. So I’m real disappointed in the leadership in the locker room down there in Miami.”
Fletcher said it’s clear to him that Martin felt he could not turn to any of his veteran teammates for help.
“I know Jonathan Martin didn’t feel comfortable enough to go to any of the guys because either you’re encouraging it or you’re just turning a blind eye and allowing the guy to get treated like he was getting treated,” Fletcher said. “And that’s the biggest thing that disappointed me the most about the situation is because there was not a veteran guy strong enough to stop what was happening to that young man.”
A day after Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said he never had seen a similar locker room issue, Fletcher echoed that sentiment.
“In the locker rooms that I’ve been in, I’ve never had a [similar] situation,” Fletcher said. “I’ve been in the league — this is my 16th year. So I’ve been on three teams, a ton of different locker rooms. Coach Shanahan doesn’t allow hazing to the rookies around here. Some teams, some coaches, they don’t want you doing anything to the rookies. I’ve never had a situation where anybody really, where there was a situation where it got to a point where you needed to step in. Sometimes rookies kind of take things a little bit the wrong way. … Throw their clothes in a cold tub and they may get offended about that. So you’ve kind of got to calm that situation, defuse that situation. But this was something beyond that. I’ve never been in a locker room where we had to really get involved with anything like that.”
Fletcher was asked if language similar to the language used by Incognito toward Martin is heard in the Redskins’ locker room and if it is acceptable.
“Not from a white person, from a white guy, from a white teammate,” Fletcher said. “You have to be conscious of that. What he said, obviously that shows a bit of racism. Not even a bit. Obviously it shows racism, bigotry. To leave a voice mail like that, he’s probably said that to the guy’s face. I mean, he was very bold. I don’t know if he said it around other guys or if this was just something he said to Jonathan in his own privacy. But you can’t allow somebody to be that comfortable around you to use that type of language at all.”
Players must deal with such issues before a coach feels a need to intervene, Fletcher said.
“It starts with the players first and foremost,” he said. “Coach Shanahan would have heard about somebody getting slapped with a tray or something if that would have happened in our locker room. That’s when he would have had to step into it. It wouldn’t have been a situation where he had to find out about this guy happened to leave the team later on. It wouldn’t have been a situation like that. The players first and foremost need to patrol their locker room. The veteran guys, somebody needed to — that’s what I’m mostly disappointed about, that there was not a guy on that team who stepped in and stood up for that young man. It definitely starts with the players first and foremost.”
Fletcher said that what happened with the Dolphins “wasn’t hazing” and expressed the view that the league will institute changes based on the Miami situation.
“I think there will definitely be some type of mandate that comes down, some type of memo that comes down league-wide telling guys what is and what’s not acceptable,” he said. “Obviously you can’t do what they were doing down there. That’s just flat bullying. That right there was beyond the scope of anything that I’ve seen, what guys have done to rookies and things like that. So it’ll probably lead to a change in the culture of the NFL as far as what is acceptable, what’s okay, what’s not okay.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
● Comments from Brandon Meriweather, Robert Griffin III.
● Washington practices on Wednesday and then heads to Minnesota for Thursday’s 8:25 p.m. game.
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