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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Former Dolphins player says locker room was "normal"

Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (left) and tackle Jonathan Martin (right) earlier this year. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
 Note: I am avid Miami Dolphins fan as well as a Richie Incogntio fan. I tried to present the facts as well as the opinions of others in an objective way.

With Monday night’s loss to the previously winless Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins continued to be embarrassed in front of a national audience. While the Dolphins have struggled at times on the field this season, one that began with a promising 3-0 start, the teams off the field issues have plagued the Dolphins, and have made them the highlight of media coverage nationwide.

You have heard the story by now. On Halloween reports first surfaced that second year tackle Jonathan Martin had left the Miami Dolphins to deal with “emotional issues” after a prank gone wrong in the teams lunchroom. That story ballooned into what is now known as “Bully-gate.”

Since Martin left the Dolphins, his teammate and fellow offensive line mate Richie Incognito has been suspended by the team, and has been targeted for his behavior that Martin’s camp has described as “harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing.”  Incognito admitted to as much as leaving a voice mail on Martin’s phone containing racial epithets and crossing the line.

In an interview with Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer Incognito took responsibility for the voicemail saying “When I see that voicemail, when I see those words come up across the screen, I’m embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed by my actions.” Incognito also addressed his use of racial epithets, “I'm not a racist. To judge me by that one word is wrong. In no way, shape or form is it ever acceptable for me to use that word even if it’s friend to friend on a voicemail.’

In addition to the voicemail, 1,142 text messages exchanged between Martin and Incognito were turned over to Glazer.

Late last week, Dolphins players came to Incognito’s defense, speaking out against Martin.

“If I'm not mistaken, this is the same guy [Martin] who was laughing about this voice mail at one point and time, first of all," said receiver Brian Hartline, "Second of all, I believe that, if you go through the whole voice mail, there's some things said that you probably shouldn't say in general, friends or not friends. But I know for a fact that I've said things to my friends that I kind of wish I never said, either.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was skeptical too saying "I think if you would have asked Jon Martin who his best friend on the team was [before the scandal], he would've said Richie Incognito. 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 they wanted to hang out outside of football, who was together? Richie and Jonathan."

Nonetheless this story has continued to grow and an outright attack on the Dolphins organization has continued.

A player, who spent the entire 2012 season with the Dolphins, today described the Dolphins locker room, as  “normal,” saying while much has been made regarding the culture in the locker room, the hazing of young players did not cross the line.

“Carrying helmets, bringing food, singing before team meetings” said the player, “They were actually great memories.”

When pressed on if he saw anything that might have indicated the locker room culture was getting to Jonathan Martin, the player said, “I didn’t see anything. He came to work everyday with the same personality.”

Head Coach Joe Philbin too has come under fire for his handling of the scandal, but the player came to his defense. “I loved Philbin, he cares about family and his players.”

While we have yet to learn all the facts (that will come when the NFL completes their investigation), we do know that for Richie Incognito to use racial epithets is wrong, but that does not make him a racist.

We know Jonathan Martin was playing poorly prior to being moved to right tackle when the Dolphins acquired Bryant Mckinnie. Could that have contributed to the stress that caused Martin to snap after the prank in the lunchroom? Possibly, but we don’t know. 

When Martin left the team he exchanged text messages with Incognito saying he did not blame Incognito and the accusations were not coming from him.

When Martin left the team it was reported that the Dolphins would place him on the non-football injury list, clearing his roster spot, but also meaning Martin would not be paid while he was away from the team.

Since those reports Martin has not been placed on the NFI and he continues to be paid. It’s worth noting Martin’s mother is a lawyer and has a long history of working on workplace harassment cases.

While all of Richie Incognito’s prior transgressions are being used against him (some rightfully so), and the alleged sexual harassment of a golf course worker that occurred over a year and a half ago is less than encouraging, Incognito is not the same man that was kicked out of Nebraska and released from the Rams.

In his time with the Dolphins he has been a Pro-Bowl player and yes even a leader in the Miami locker room. Those who have played with him call him a great teammate, those who have played against him call him dirty.

Richie Incognito may never play another down for the Miami Dolphins, but he will play in the NFL again. Jonathan Martin might not play another down in the NFL, because he dared to show his vulnerability.

This scandal has cast a black cloud over the Dolphins, and has threatened the careers of head coach Joe Philbin and General Manager Jeff Ireland (rightfully so).

Should the NFL find Richie Incognito responsible, the league must come down on him and show this type of behavior is unacceptable and has no place in the NFL.

Should these accusations be unfounded we should learn a big lesson about convicting someone before they are proven guilty. 

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