Tuesday, November 5, 2013
NFL Bully Incognito the Bad Guy? Maybe Not
In the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, guard Richie Incognito is the villain and tackle Jonathan Martin is the innocent victim. Right? Case closed.
Not so fast. It depends on who you talk to.
Incognito, a white, 30-year-old guard who's played for several teams over the past decade, has been suspended by the Dolphins for bullying black, second-year, 24-year-old tackle Jonathan Martin so viciously that Martin left the team. However, three sources close to the Dolphins report that teammates and coaches knew about the situation but did nothing about it.
Sources talked to two Dolphins who, for obvious reasons, prefer to remain anonymous. The sources say that Incognito always has been a bully, antagonizing certain vulnerable players. The Dolphin players, though the sources, say Incognito was abusive and used racial slurs on Martin and other players but coaches and teammates laughed it off, saying "That's just Richie being Richie."
But the Dolphins, surprisingly, say good things about Incognito, saying that he has been a team leader and a dedicated "enforcer," on and off the field. According to the sources the players said, while you couldn't call what Incognito did good, you can't label him a bad guy either, that he was operating for the good of the team. Management, they insisted, was throwing him under the bus. Could he, the sources say, have lasted all these years in the league if the management of teams he played for, like the Bills and the Rams, didn't have some idea what he was up to?
According to the sources, what Incognito did was out in the open, and to some extent, was considered, in the words of one player, "no big deal." Coaches, say the sources, knew about it but looked the other way. Apparently, since Incognito picked on rookies and low-tier players, coaches thought Incognito's abuse was a way of toughening up these inexperienced, "soft" players.
Martin, say the sources, is a bright, sensitive man who's very talented (a second-round draft choice in 2012 out of Stanford) but needed to be rougher and more hard-nosed. The coaches, the players speculated, figured the pounding he got from Incognito would make him "man up" and become a better player.
Apparently Incognito got away with bullying on various teams all these years because he knew, like all bullies, who to target.. He's not going after a big star, like the starting QB or some All Pro linebacker, or respected veterans, who wouldn't stand for such behavior. Nor would he try to abuse some black player who grew up battling his way through the hood.
According to the sources, the Dolphin players say what Incognito did was considered an extension of the traditional hazing veterans inflict on rookies and younger players. Incognito crossed the line often but no one thought it was noteworthy.
There's a code, the sources say, the players aren't supposed to violate--take what's dished out in these situations like a man and don't go running to management. Martin ignored the code.
Consequently, while Incognito is getting trashed in the media, Martin, quietly, in NFL player circles, is taking a worse beating. Report the players, Martin is being called a "pussy" and a "rat" for blowing the whistle on Incognito. One of the Dolphins said, according to the source, that nothing is worse that ratting out a teammate. Martin, claims the Dolphin, is a "cry baby."..
According to the sources, one Dolphin insists bullying is part of the way of life in the NFL and that there are many like Incognito in the league. There's one guy, reports the Dolphin, on an AFC team, who puts Incognito to shame.
Will bullying in the NFL ever stop?
According to the sources, the Dolphin players predict that after the media attention the Incognito story is getting dies down, things will get back to normal.
Posted by Dennis Hunt at 3:55 PM