As the NFL prepares to do a review of the situation between Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, it’s fair to wonder what the long-term impact on them and other peo-ple in the organization might be.
In short, could this cost coach Joe Philbin and/or General Manager Jeff Ireland their jobs? Moreover, what impact will it have on the league?
“You can’t know everything about your players, but this sounds like something the coaching staff should have known about,” an NFC executive said Monday morning. “This sounds like a lot of stuff that happened inside the building.”
Making matters worse for Dolphins management is that the team didn’t find out about many of the problems until multiple media reports came out during the week, culminating Sunday with accusations that Martin feared retribution from Incognito, according to ESPN.
Proof of the team’s ignorance came in a series of three statements issued by the team Sunday, beginning with one that claimed that the reports were based on rumors. Twelve hours later, the Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team” and have asked the NFL to review the matter. Martin was place on the non-football injury list after leaving the team last Monday.
“We have been in contact with the team on this matter since last week and will conduct a thorough review,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
Martin’s departure led to a dramatic, week that has features accusations of bullying and intimidation. By Sunday night, there were further reports of racially charged messages from Incognito to Martin, FOX reported.
The question that may haunt Dolphins management is whether it knew anything about the situation and whether it should have done something.
Beyond that, it’s almost impossible to imagine Martin and Incognito playing together again, if ever again for the Dolphins. The NFC executive said he was most concerned about Martin.
“If it’s just about ability, he’ll get another shot. The tough question is whether you can bring him into the locker room … Will the guys trust him? Or will they think he'll just fold and run to the media?” the executive said.
That, of course, is a loaded statement that speaks to the culture of a locker room and the camaraderie that teams try to build. In the extreme Alpha male world of NFL teams, crass jokes, tough talk and pranks are fairly regular occurrences. Getting rookies to contribute to dinners (at least one expensive night out a season) or bring in food once a week is normal.
And those are the benign forms.
In some ways it’s a bonding exercise. In some ways it’s a test of what someone can handle, complete with the question of whether they will stand up and say no. In Martin’s case, it appears he was pushed too far and/or didn’t know how to stand up against it.
“Look, we get the human resources lectures all the time,” the executive said. “I’m not dismissing any of that. But a locker room and this game have a very separate culture. In our own building, there are things said in a locker room that you can’t say in another part of the building. By the same token, I think our players interact with the media and other people very professionally. They understand there’s a time for work and a time to just relax.
“People don’t understand it. You manage it the best you can and try to figure out what’s acceptable. Is it a bonding exercise or is it intimidation? There are different ways to look at it.”
The question now is how will the NFL look at it?
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