NFL Nation: NFL culture reaction 131106

HOUSTON -- On Monday, a day after Richie Incognito was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the Dolphins, Texans defensive end Antonio Smith was asked if the allegations that Incognito bullied a teammate, threatened him and used a racial slur toward him surprised Smith.

"Definitely not," Smith replied.


"You are what you are."

Smith and Incognito have a long history. It goes even further beyond the two games in which the two have sparred in the past two seasons. They both played in the Big 12 in college with Smith at Oklahoma State and Incognito at Nebraska. In the NFL, the players who were drafted one year apart wound up in the same division, facing each other twice a year.

Of course, Smith ripped off Incognito's helmet this year during the Texans' preseason game in Miami and the ensuing swing, which didn't make any contact, led to a fine and suspension of two preseason games and one regular-season game for the defensive end. He didn't say much about it, except to say that Incognito punched him in the face and grabbed his facemask before that. It's the second time in two seasons the league has fined Smith for an incident involving Incognito.

Today Smith was asked again about Incognito, bullying and the racial nature of some of the allegations.

What was clear was that he doesn't think what's happening in Miami is a cultural problem with the NFL. He thinks hazing, when done with the right intentions, can be harmless. Rather, Smith thinks what's happening in Miami is an Incognito problem.

And while the Dolphins locker room seems to be rejecting the notion that Incognito used racial slurs hatefully, it doesn’t sound like Smith buys that. Smith's words:

"Hate is a big -- especially in this day and age -- it’s a big factor. If some of the allegations are true of things that he said or left voice messages. I don’t think that has any place anywhere. But other people believe differently.

"I don’t think in my opinion a grown man should get bullied. I think that if you realistically get bullied, there’s only one way my mom taught me and my dad taught me how to get rid of bullies as a child. I can’t say what to do in this day and age, but when I was a kid they always used to say, you hit a bully in the mouth, it’ll stop him from bullying. No matter what you hit him with."

On hazing in general:

"I don’t know what’s the particulars on it. I know that a lot of it is just football players doing what football players do. The rest of the world don’t understand, they think it’s outrageous and different things like that. In every walk of life you have your rite of passage and your traditions that you do. These are the traditions that have been passed down throughout the NFL for a long time. I think a lot of the things that (happen are) no problem, it’s just in the hands of a person that you have in charge of doing it. Like having weapons or firearms. The person who’s in charge of (the weapon) is the one you should fear, not the firearm itself.

"If you’re hazing somebody and you’re hazing them out of pure hate instead of love, then I don’t think that has a place in (football). I’ve never been around it so I couldn’t even comment on it. When we have our fun, we laugh we joke with each other, you know it’s all in love. If (allegations about Incognito are) true from what I’m hearing, from what everybody’s saying, that’s not out of love. You’re just outright stalking somebody or threatening to beat their you know what and all of that, that’s totally different. That’s not what we as football players in the NFL do for hazing or right of passage, for rookies in that league."

Does he feel vindicated?

"I don’t feel vindicated at all. That situation was what it was. I closed the chapter on that situation whether it was that situation or any other, you’re going to be the man that you are. He is the man that he is. That’s just the bottom line. It don’t reflect on me or anything, any of the situation."

On Incognito's use of a racial slur:

"When you’re generating that type of hate toward somebody, I don’t think that’s called for especially for somebody that’s supposed to be your teammate. You’re spending most of your time with these guys in the locker room, more time than you spend with your family. You grow to love a lot of your teammates as brothers as friends. Racial slurs, any kind of slurs or hate generating, I don’t think has any place in the locker room, a football locker room, a team, anywhere as a matter of fact. I don’t want to just bottle it into us. Make it all about football. It don’t have a place anywhere. But some people believe that way."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson on Thursday said he had spoken this week with Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito in the wake of the hazing scandal involving him in South Florida.

[+] EnlargeGreg Olson
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsRaiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson coached the embattled Richie Incognito for two seasons in St. Louis.
Olson coached Incognito in St. Louis as the Rams' offensive coordinator for the lineman's first two NFL seasons.

"He felt it was taken out of context, so he felt like he had a good relationship in that locker room with not only the player in question but most of the players in the locker room," Olson said of Incognito, who is accused of bullying fellow lineman Jonathan Martin.

Obviously, Olson and Incognito developed a friendship for them to remain in contact after Incognito's rookie year of 2006 -- and even after Incognito burned bridges in St. Louis with sideline outbursts, on-field fights and a confrontation with then-coach Steve Spagnuolo in 2009.

"When he became available and had the issues in St. Louis, I reached out there because that normally wasn't the Richie that I knew ... the issue with Spagnuolo and he went over the top there at the end in St. Louis, and that really was more about reaching out for help," Olson said. "I thought at that point, 'This guy's going to need help; he'll never play again in the National Football League.'"

Incognito was cut by the Rams on Dec. 15, 2009, and picked up by the Buffalo Bills two days later. He signed with Miami in March 2010.

"I had a chance to visit with him when I was in Tampa [Bay] and we played the Dolphins [in an exhibition game] and just felt like at that time he had turned the corner a little bit in terms of maturity and the importance of being a football player, but also being responsible in his actions," said Olson, who was the Buccaneers offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2008-11.

"So it was disappointing, again, some of the things that we're reading and hearing -- you just hope that it's not true. And with him, he feels like it's all been taken out of context."

Olson equated being a coach to being a parent.

"You try to guide your kids and try to give them the guidance that they need," Olson said, "but at some point they're going to go out and do their own thing."

And while Olson hopes the story is being overblown, there seems to be a pattern of behavior with Incognito, who was once voted the NFL's dirtiest player in a league-wide players poll. He was kicked out of college at Nebraska before trying to play at Oregon.

"I just think he brings, again, an element of that's what he is -- he's an element of toughness," Olson said. "I do believe that some of the things, they were taken out of context; I hope that's the case. Obviously, we all hope that's the case.

"But his personality is high-strung, very high-strung, was a tough player. But the other things outside that, I just think it's really sad, really sad, and you just hope that it's not true what's being said out there."
PHILADELPHIA -- Cary Williams broke into the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, spent four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent this year.

He has seen how hazing is handled in the cultures of three different locker rooms.

“A lot of guys in Baltimore didn’t believe in it,” Williams said. “They really didn’t care for it. Not that they felt there wasn’t a place for it, they just didn’t make a rookie sit in a cold tub if he didn’t feel like sitting in a cold tub. Or putting Icy Hot in a helmet. We had those situations in Tennessee.”

Williams said Titans coach Jeff Fisher participated in the age-old prank of sending rookies out to get free turkeys before Thanksgiving.

“There was nothing but ice in the turkey boxes,” Williams said. “It was all in good fun.”

Fisher’s role is not surprising. That gag was standard in Philadelphia, and Fisher played for and coached under Buddy Ryan. It’s also an example of how hazing can be a kind of rite of passage without turning into intimidation or bullying.

“We had good leadership in place to kind of manage those situations, and it didn’t get out of hand,” Williams said. “To me, it made the locker room a little bit more fun. I remember vividly, I had my Jordans thrown in a cold tub. I only found one of those shoes. I’m still looking for it.”

“The hazing should be there to build camaraderie and to grow together as a group,” Eagles guard Evan Mathis said. “It shouldn’t be where someone’s getting bullied and put down and making them feel bad. That’s not what we’re trying to do.”

The Eagles of the 1980s and 1990s engaged in a certain amount of rookie hazing. In the lunch room at training camp, rookies would have to sing their school song or perform some other act to amuse the veterans. I distinctly remember a player being taped to a goalpost at Lehigh University and left there until someone noticed and cut him loose.

Andy Reid put an end to all that when he became head coach in 1999.

“Andy was very much against hazing and all that stuff,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said.

Reid was here 14 years, plenty of time for the culture of hazing to shrivel up and die. When Chip Kelly brought his progressive, modern approach here this year, there was no major change in policy needed.

"Chip hasn’t really spoken about hazing or anything," Williams said. "I don’t think this team functions like that. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some teams do it, some teams don’t. We're one of the teams that don’t. It’s fine with me."

Rookies still have to buy meals for the veterans at their positions. Rookie safety Earl Wolff is in charge of buying snacks for the defensive backs meetings.

“But that’s more like paying your dues than it is hazing,” second-year linebacker Mychal Kendricks said.

“We're all on the same team,” Kelly said, “and I think everyone should be treated the same way. Some of our young offensive linemen make sure there’s water stocked in the offensive line meeting room, but everybody’s a professional. We don’t do a rookie show, we don’t do those things. Everybody is on the same side.”

Make no mistake. Fun is had in the NovaCare Complex. Players spray air freshener after a flatulent teammate crop dusts one corner of the locker room. There is a pool table in the players’ lounge that gets plenty of use.

"We do pranks on each other," Kendricks said. "If someone gets me, I try to get them back. But it's never about disrespecting someone else."

There is a common theme, Williams said: "We treat every man here with respect."

What happens to Texans' rookies?

November, 7, 2013
With the mess in Miami, and whatever actually went on with the Dolphins, our NFL Nation went to locker rooms across the land to find out where the responsibility lies in stopping hazing.

I checked in with a few Texans players about their thoughts on the matter. I will post some thoughts from left tackle Duane Brown later. Remember, Brown defended Dolphins guard Richie Incognito after his most recent spat with Texans defensive end Antonio Smith. Incognito and Brown played alongside each other at the Pro Bowl in January.

First, though, let's look at what life is like for a Texans rookie.

Defensive lineman Jared Crick was a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft.

How do you view hazing in the NFL?

[+] EnlargeJared Crick
AP Photo/Scott BoehmJared Crick says life is good for rookies with the Texans.
JC: Well, here ... I wouldn't describe it as hazing. It's more kind of, not even initiation really, just more kind of something rookies are expected to do. It's really nothing that's going to cause physical or emotional harm. At the most it's going to be carrying the vets' helmets after practice, or when it comes your time to foot the bill, you foot the bill when you go out to eat. Other than that, we don't really have any traditions -- we don't shave your head or do anything of that nature. I can't speak for anywhere else. Rookies got it good here. When they get here, if they prove they work hard and deserve to be on this team, they're treated as veterans. We got a good thing here for the rookies.

So it feels inclusive?

If you're a rookie and you know that all the other rookies are getting the same treatment you are, none of it's really bad. We'll never put a rookie in the position where he's uncomfortable to come to work every day. As long as you go along with it and have fun with it, that's all part of it. We try and have fun with the rookies instead of try and separate them from the rest of us. There's nothing that any rookie should be afraid to come to work every day.

The idea of excessive restaurant tabs has come into the spotlight a bit. Have you ever seen that be a problem?

Yeah, I mean I've never heard of anything like that. If a bill does get a little high, which it really hasn't, a veteran will help him out. That came last year, the rookie guys who obviously weren't making a whole lot of money, they gotta buy it together instead of just one dude -- $30,000 bill is outrageous no matter who's going out to eat. And I don't think you should have to pin that on a rookie no matter what. Fortunately here, we wouldn't expect a rookie to do that.

From the get-go, if we know a rookie's going to be taking us out to eat, we're not going to the most expensive restaurant in Houston. We take precautions. It's kind of a standard thing where if you're a rookie and obviously you're not first-round money or anything like that, you have someone else to help you out. And if it ever gets outrageous, the vets will pay for their own meal. That's happened last year when I went to a nice restaurant. We know what it's like to be a rookie. We know it can be tough at times being in a new city, stuff like that, so we got a good group of guys. I can't speak for other teams, but for the most part, as long as you have fun with it, it's all right.

What kinds of experiences have your friends on other teams had?

Lot of guys I went to college with, when they talked about things they had to do as a rookie, a lot of guys it was a little something; they had to shave their heads or do stuff like that. Get snacks every night for vets. If that's all you have to do, that's all right. As long as you have fun with it. When you're a veteran, you're going to look forward to a rookie buying you wings after a Thursday practice or something like that. Rookies are paid well in this league, but at the same time you don't want to ask too much, because it does get a little excessive sometimes.

How far is too far?

We get a good feel through OTAs and the summer and see if they can joke around a little. Some of them are really shy. Obviously, you're not going to go out and try and pick on them. If a rookie doesn't feel comfortable going to a certain restaurant because it's going to be expensive, we won't make him do that. We'll take him somewhere they want to go. As long as the rookie's having fun with it, not anything goes, but we'll roll along with it, but if they get a little more on the uncomfortable side, they'll cut it out or anything like that. We treat them as if they're a teammate, they're a Houston Texan and they're an integral part of this team.

What were you like as a rookie?

I was pretty shy when I first got here. I didn't talk to too many people, so they didn't really have a good feel for me yet. As the year went on, I went with everything they wanted me to do. Obviously, they're not going to not do it. I just had fun with it. I think if you have fun with it and you're willing to do the things, they don't ask too much of you. They kind of want to ... if you just say, "Yeah I'll do that, I'll get wings today," it's fine. Their eye isn't on you as much. I just rolled with it. At the end of the day, it's not a whole lot they're asking of you. They just want more entertainment than anything.

Smith: You have to respect everyone

November, 7, 2013
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although new details in the Miami Dolphins' saga involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito seem to surface hourly, the terms bullying and hazing have become topics of conversation in every NFL locker room this week.

Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith had no comment on the fallout in Miami, but Smith did speak in general terms about how players should conduct themselves and how coaches should monitor certain situations.

"I think the more important thing is that everyone understands that there is a respect factor on a football team and you have to respect everyone, not only on the team and in the locker room, but throughout the building,’’ Smith said. "In terms of the locker room, players and coaches are both responsible. It’s a team. The team is very important. The dynamics of a football team are very different every year. They are different every day in an NFL locker room."

Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters, in his fourth season, said hazing and bullying haven't been a problem since he joined the Falcons.

"I think every locker room is different,’’ Peters said. "I can’t speak about that [Miami] situation specifically because I don’t know any details. But here in Atlanta, we have a lot of good guys. And there are incidents of playful-hazing stuff. But I guess it depends on your background, what you determine to be excessive or not. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that I would consider to be even remotely excessive since I’ve been here. I paid for a rookie meal when I was a rookie, and that’s about it. It wasn’t a lot. Just a couple thousand. It wasn’t bad at all, really, considering some of the stories I’ve heard from other places.’’

Peters was asked if the coaches or players should be responsible for monitoring such behavior.

"I think in this setting, it should be fine: We’re all men in here,’’ Peters said. "And if you’re uncomfortable with something, then I think you should stand up and say, 'Hey, I’m uncomfortable with this.' And if it continues beyond that point, other actions need to be taken. But here, we have a great group of guys. And I think if someone says 'Hey, I don’t want to do that,' that’s the end of it. I’m sure if I didn’t want to pay for that meal, I could have gotten out of it. But it is what it is.’’

Rookie tight end Levine Toilolo played with Martin at Stanford.

"I think it's unfortunate but at the same time, I don't really know the whole story or the whole situation,'' Toilolo said. "In college, he was a good guy. He was a year above me. He was one of the top players and one of the leaders on our team. I consider him a friend of mine. It's unfortunate to have that situation going on.''
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith says hazing and bullying doesn't exist on the team, even though he didn't believe it at first.

After watching the rough initiations on HBO's Hard Knocks, Smith prepared for the worst when he reported to training camp two years ago.

"To my surprise, I came in and Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, [Terrell] Suggs, Haloti [Ngata] took us right in [saying], ‘Alright, we need you to be ready to play. We don’t have time to haze. You’ve got to sing, buy Popeye’s, but that’s it,'" Smith said. "It’s more so about a family atmosphere and welcoming you in instead of tearing you down and trying to isolate you. I don’t get how hazing even brings a team closer. It’s stupid to me.”

Hazing and bullying has become hot topics in NFL locker rooms since Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito was suspended Sunday amid allegations he bullied a younger teammate, Jonathan Martin, who left the team and recently checked himself into a South Florida hospital to be treated for emotional distress.

Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN on Monday that Incognito used racial epithets and profane language toward Martin on multiple occasions.

"It's surprising for me to see any player using these kinds of remarks and these kind of attacks in this day and age; even going back to the Riley Cooper thing back in the beginning of the season," defensive end Chris Canty said. "It's unfortunate this is continuing to take place. I do want to commend the Miami Dolphins for setting the precedent in the course of action they've taken as opposed to what the Philadelphia Eagles decided to do, giving Riley Cooper a slap on the wrist. I think that emboldens people to continue to use those kind of slurs, make those kind of remarks and have those kind of texts."

Does Canty believe there's a place in the NFL for Incognito?

"Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right and I think it should be treated as such, and I don't think there's any place for racism, racially charged attacks," Canty said. "I don't think there's a place for it."

Smith was among those Ravens who defended Martin's actions for coming forward.

"Guys are going to say that (blame the victim) because football's a manly sport, a sport that's typically about dominance and you're going to hear guys react that way -- stand up for yourself, fight back," Smith said. "But at the same time, if he did that, where would it have gotten him? We don't know if it would've worked."

Smith added, "People don't bully the strong links. So clearly there was something that he saw that he took advantage of. You don't just bully anyone, and it's very unfortunate. I'm not going to disrespect their locker room, I don't know anything about it. But if you have great leadership in there, you can see what's clearly a problem where it goes from being fun to a problem, which it escalated to and hopefully they'll get it right."

Hazing outlawed under Trestman

November, 7, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Marc Trestman made the eradication of rookie hazing one of his first directives upon taking the job as head coach of the Chicago Bears, and many of the team’s players believe the move has fostered a better work environment.

At the very least, it might help the Bears avoid a controversial situation such as what Miami is currently experiencing. The Dolphins suspended guard Richie Incognito on Sunday for conduct detrimental to the team, a move that stemmed from allegations of harassment from offensive tackle Jonathan Martin, who after leaving the Dolphins last week checked himself into a South Florida hospital to treat emotional distress.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images"I told the team the first night," Bears coach Marc Trestman said, "when you haze somebody, you take their ability to help you win."
“I’ve been in places where there’s been hazing, and I’ve been in places where there has not been hazing,” Trestman said. “I told the team the first night, when you haze somebody, you take their ability to help you win. Everybody’s here to help you win. We’re not talking about taking a helmet and walking off the field with a helmet. We’re talking about other things. The words you use, the way you act, the things you say, affect people from all different backgrounds and places. We’ve got to understand that the beauty of this game is it draws people from everywhere, from different realities and different perceptions, but that can all be neutralized through respect and using the proper language and proper words in the right place and the right time, in this building, on the field, and when we’re out in the community because we represent the entire city.”

Receiver Brandon Marshall and some of the veterans who weren’t pleased with Trestman’s order initially, now appreciate the coach’s insistence on eliminating hazing. An eight-year veteran who started his career in Denver and played with Incognito in Miami before joining the Bears, Marshall admitted he was intimidated as a rookie in 2006 when Broncos veterans put him through some of the typical hazing rituals, which are viewed by many players as a rite of passage.

Marshall said he’s seen “guys getting their eyebrows shaved, heads shaved,” but he was only asked by veterans such as former Broncos Rod Smith and Javon Walker to do “simple things” such as “stock up the room with sunflower seeds and occasionally bring in some donuts.” The receiver also carried veterans’ helmets off the practice field, making sure to do it “so it wouldn’t escalate into something serious.”

“Here, it’s different. We look at rookies differently,” Marshall said. “You have to earn your stripes, earn your place on the team, earn your place in the NFL. But as far as crossing that line -- disrespecting guys, demeaning guys -- that just doesn’t happen here. Actually, coach Trestman did a great job of really going out of his way to make everyone feel comfortable from Day 1. There were some things where we were like, ‘Man, this stuff goes on in every locker room. We would love to continue to do it.’ But Coach just said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna nip that in the bud. I want guys to focus on football, and everyone just focus on their jobs and not Rookie Night or what guys might do to me the next day [in terms of hazing].’”

Rookie guard Kyle Long appreciates Trestman’s approach, but made it clear that he understands he’s a rookie who hasn’t yet paid his dues. The team’s offensive line will hold a rookie dinner at some point soon, “and I’m sure [fellow rookie] Jordan Mills and I will split the tab eventually,” Long said on “The Carmen & Jurko Show” on ESPN 1000. He and Mills are also often asked to supply dipping tobacco for the veteran offensive linemen.

Long said Trestman made the no-hazing rule “very clear from the beginning.”

“I feel that’s very conducive to a healthy workplace,” Long said. “We really appreciate that about Coach, where nobody is put ahead of anybody else. But at the same time, for you to think that we don’t understand that we are rookies, you’d be mistaken.”

Trestman’s philosophy regarding hazing comes from a 28-year coaching career, ranging from stints at college (where teams haze freshmen) to a head-coaching job in the Canadian Football League and several stops around the NFL. Trestman’s goal upon joining the Bears was to build “on the concept of respect and the growth of respect, so guys understand what we’re trying to get done here.”

Besides, he’s seen too many instances of hazing in the past that ultimately were detrimental to a team’s overall goals.

“I’ve seen the incidents. I know what it does,” Trestman said. “We’re not going to spend time having players worry about things that can’t help us win and are going to be disrespectful. I can’t speak for anyone in the National Football League on that. I’m not going to stand up here after seven weeks on the job and start speaking for the league. Our whole foundation’s built on respect for everyone in the organization, respect for the players, respect for the game, honoring the game. We’ve talked about it a lot.”

Eric Wood adds insight on Incognito

November, 7, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The situation regarding suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito seemingly changes by the hour, as new developments and viewpoints stream in on the topic.

On Wednesday, more reaction came from the Buffalo Bills locker room, specifically from team captain Eric Wood. In addition to being represented by the same agent, David Dunn, Wood and Incognito were teammates on the Bills in 2009.

Saying he's been in communication with "everybody" about the incident, Wood stepped cautiously around the subject Wednesday.

"Richie is by no means innocent, but there's usually two sides to stories and without knowing everything, I don't want to get on Richie too hard for what happened," he said. "I think the language was a terrible misjudgment. In today's society you just can't use racial language; that's just how it is. Whether they get along really well and they felt comfortable with that, you still can't use it. I think that's kind of like, the voicemail that was released, I think that was the biggest issue of it all."

Wood suggested that Jonathan Martin's agent may be the source of details that emerged about Incognito's involvement.

"Sometimes, from what it appears, the agents got involved. Jonathan was with his family for a few days. Nothing came out, and then all of the sudden the agent released stuff about Richie," Wood said. "I don't know if he's trying to defend his client and maybe throw someone under the bus at the expense of it, but I don't know. I think there's a lot more to the story than meets the eye."

Although teammates for just one season, Wood said he and Incognito remain friends and see each other at events, including the Super Bowl.

"He gets on me. I get on him. But I can take it. I have respect for Richie, he has respect for me," Wood said. "It sounds really weird to outside people, but it's part of the culture. Guys give people a hard time. Especially O-lines that are really close. But you really have to get a feel for guys. As a leader of a football team especially, just a case of misjudgment I believe."

Wood further stressed that Incognito may be misunderstood.

"I don't know what would have provoked him. I'm assuming he felt some back-and-forth banter, which is kind of how he produces his humor. He gets on guys and guys get on him back. He can take it. He's by no means perfect and guys give him a hard time, too," Wood said. "But you have to have respect for a guy, and when a guy is kind of down, which I'm assuming [Martin] was, you have to know when to pull off, and I think he just used some really bad misjudgment."

As far as his own experience, Wood said he has been on the receiving end of friendly banter.

"Guys got on me for a lot of meals. They get on me about my hair. But I'm fine with that. I just kind of roll it off," he said. "Outside the building we all hung out and we all got along. But there's different cases where guys can take it differently. As far as the meals they've gotten me for, I've enjoyed my fair share of meals. And they got me good because I was a first-rounder. First-rounders generally stick around for a while. And they know that you're going to get it back."

Draft status plays into how veterans treat "rookie nights," according to Wood.

"We've had a lot of undrafted offensive linemen who make the team and they might pick up breakfast on a Saturday, but they're not getting the big-time rookie nights that you hear about a Dez Bryant or somebody else getting," he said.

Harbaugh supports Jonathan Martin

November, 6, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Jim Harbaugh said he does have a policy on hazing and bullying in the NFL.

However, he doesn’t think the time is right to express it because of what is going on in Miami between offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.

“Yeah, I could and I’d be glad to at a different time,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think that this is the forum for that discussion. But you bring that up to me at some point where it’s not related to this story, like I said, anything else is hearsay on my part.”

However, Harbaugh’s attention is on the case in Miami. He was the college coach of Martin at Stanford. Martin has accused Incognito of harassing him and has left the team. The Dolphins suspended Incognito.

“As far as that situation, there’s only one thing I can intelligently comment on and that’s knowing Jonathan Martin,” Harbaugh said. “I know him to be a fine person and his family. [Martin was a] great contributor as a student and an athlete at Stanford, epitomizes the student-athlete model and a personal friend. I support Jonathan.”

Harbaugh declined to comment on whether he’s reached out to Martin.

“I don’t have any comment on that, or anything else because I wasn’t there,” Harbaugh said. “Not in the locker room there, didn’t see anything, didn’t hear anything, and didn’t talk to anybody that did. So, anything I would have to say in any regard would be hearsay.”

Several 49ers have said there are no such issues in their locker room. It starts with the coaching staff.

“Here, it starts with Coach Harbaugh,” 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. “He doesn’t want anything of that stuff happening. And then it goes to the veterans guys to make sure we [don’t] have any trouble. But we don’t do any of that stuff here, anyway.”
METAIRE, La. -- New Orleans Saints players repeatedly stressed Wednesday that they don't know all the details of the drama going on with the Miami Dolphins, so it was impossible for them to take a firm stance for or against anyone involved.

And that's important, they explained, because there is a fine line in the NFL between pushing a teammate and recognizing when it goes too far.

Veteran leaders like quarterback Drew Brees and offensive tackle Zach Strief both strongly condemned the racial slur that Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito reportedly left on a voicemail to teammate Jonathan Martin.

"That's hatefulness," Strief said. "If the voicemail is indicative of the other things that are being said, [it's] absolutely 100 percent unacceptable. There's no excuse for it. ... And that's not a football issue, that's not a locker room issue. That's a life issue."

But both players also explained that it is incumbent on leaders like themselves to find constructive ways to motivate teammates. And players young and old all agreed that they don't have a problem with rookies paying their dues by doing things like buying expensive meals, making coffees and protein shakes and carrying pads, etc.

No one brought up any personal experiences that they felt went too far.

"I can't speak to what's going on there," Brees said. "But if something's going on and you're like, 'Hey, somebody's taking it too far with another player,' then guys will step up and say, 'Hey listen, man, back off him a little bit, give him a break, cut him some slack' or whatever. But there are plenty of times where, 'Hey this guy's dragging' and everybody in the position group is like, 'Hey we've got to get this guy going, so let's get on him.'

"I imagine that stuff happens in the military all the time. I'm not saying you'd call a 'Code Red,' but you do what you can to help motivate, inspire, lead, get the best out of your players. Coaches doing it to players, players doing it to players. That stuff happens. It's part of this business. It's very competitive."

Asked if it's actually possible for a grown man to be "bullied," Brees said, "I mean, I don't know if bully is the right term. Because typically I think you'd say that about somebody who can't protect themselves or can't defend themselves. But listen, there's all kinds of verbal abuse that takes place inside a locker room. And 99 percent of it is in jest. But maybe there's a little bit of truth to everything that's said in jest. I think that's why some of the best motivational tactics from coaches and players have been when you're messing with a guy and you might say something about their performance and their work ethic or something like that. ...

"These are motivational tactics. Now, like I said, the whole racism part of it, I do not agree with at all. But as far as everything else, we just don't know. We don't know because we're not there. And even if something was reported a certain way does not mean it was fact."

Strief brought up a specific example from earlier this year where he had to start "riding" younger players.

"You could ask some of our guys, I'm not the easiest vet in the whole world," Strief said. "I'm not gonna accept a guy showing up late. I mean, we had some stuff earlier with our guys where we said, 'Hey, that's not OK.' And yeah, I'll go to them and say, 'Hey, you're coming in at 7 in the morning now because you can't come in on time. I'm gonna call you every night like a little kid to make sure you know what time the meeting is.' That's riding a guy, right? Now, you could turn around and say that's a good thing for him, too. And I think that's where you start looking at, 'Is the extra attention, is that extra pushing done for a positive reason? And is it done in a positive way?'

"It can still come across as tough. But the words that I saw, that's not riding somebody. That's hatefulness. That's how I feel about those words I saw -- knowing that I didn't hear that message and I wasn't there when he said it. But on the surface, that's not riding a guy. ... If what is said is true, I think it's completely unacceptable, 100 percent. And it's on a lot of people. It's on players in that locker room that allow it to go on. It's on anyone that knew about it that didn't step up and say something."

Other players echoed the comments of Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette, who said, "It's tough, man, it's tough. It's like you really can play both sides here. I feel sorry for the kid -- Martin. I've never been part of a situation where there's hazing."

Coach Sean Payton agreed that he doesn't know the Dolphins circumstances. But he insisted that it is important for a team to have the proper leadership and atmosphere in place.

"I think we play close attention to the infusion of new players," Payton said. "I think we've got, to a credit of our leadership, we've got a real good culture in regards to developing young players."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- With the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin hazing scandal swirling in Miami, Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor believes the responsibility for putting an end to such bullying rests with team leaders.

Specifically, with the starting quarterback.

“You need to make sure you have your foot stepped forward, and I’m not trying to put down or say that the Dolphins quarterback isn’t doing that, I don’t know that,” Pryor said of Ryan Tannehill. “But in answering your question … I believe that the quarterback is very responsible for in-house and locker room things and deals and quieting situations down. I believe that people are going to listen to you if they respect you enough.

“I just think that we’re professionals, and I definitely hope we’ll see Martin playing again soon. I watched some film, he’s a good player. My hat’s off to him for standing up and being a man.”

Pryor is a first-year starter for the Raiders after being selected out of Ohio State in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft as the late Al Davis’ last pick.

“You want to cut things off, you know?” Pryor said of stopping situations before they get out of hand.

Pryor referenced stopping teammates from drinking too much.

“Hey, maybe you should take a cab,” he recalled advising a teammate.

“Something small like that, you just get so much respect from your teammate that you stopped and helped him … that definitely comes in a leadership role.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bernard Pollard draws a crowd every Wednesday when he talks in the Tennessee Titans' locker room.

I thought he was so interesting on the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin story and the idea of bullying in the NFL, I’m just going to share the bulk of it directly from him.
  • “Any organization, any person, any players, that’s something you don’t want to have to deal with. It’s a rough situation. We are on the outside looking in. I can’t put myself in the young fellow’s shoes at all. It’d be hard. But you’ve just got to hope that he comes back and that he recovers. I don’t know how bad he’s doing but I hope he recovers … I feel bad for the guy but at the same time, guys allowed it and didn’t step up."
  • “I’m going to be honest with all of you, some of y’all probably said it before. People are saying it. As far as the bullying and everything else, that’s tough. Anytime you see things like that, me as a player, first and foremost, that can’t happen. It can’t happen on a football team, it can’t be allowed. I can’t stand by and watch. Because as a leader, as a man, you don’t do that. You don’t demean somebody. You don’t bully somebody."
  • “Our motto as far as the NFL, as far as the shield, we’ve been anti-bullying. We’ve been trying to fix that with commercials and everything else. And all of a sudden now it’s going on in a locker room? That’s tough. What are we saying now, when we’re trying to tell kids at elementary schools and middle schools and high schools don’t do it but then we turn around and we’re doing it?"
  • “It’s not fair, what he did to the young man. I’m hearing everybody else’s comments, talking about how he needs to step up and be a man and he needs to handle this. That’s tough, man. I can’t sit here and say that. I’m not going to sit here and say that 'that man’s a punk for leaving.' He went through something. He might have went through something when he was younger, it took him back. We don’t know that. We don’t know the history of what has happened to that young fella. I think the league has stepped in and are doing things about it and are doing the right thing."
  • “[Incognito] is a hard-nosed guy, he plays the game of football, he does some extra stuff but other than that, and as far as his character off the field, I am totally shocked. You heard a lot of guys step up and went to bat for him, how he’s a good guy, how he’s not racist. I’m not going to call him a racist; I don’t believe he is racist. I just think he used some words and said some things that shouldn’t be said. He demeaned a guy who wouldn’t stand up for himself. And that had no place in NFL locker rooms or locker rooms period, in schools and in life.”
IRVING, Texas -- The Miami Dolphins drama has created an array of emotions from NFL players.

The Dolphins suspended guard Richie Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team after he allegedly treated a teammate, tackle Jonathan Martin, unprofessionally. Sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Martin checked himself into a Miami hospital because of emotional distress.

The level of hazing has raised questions about the conduct in NFL locker rooms.

Is there a problem?

"I don't think so," Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. "I don't know what happened down in Miami, but you got to put some fault on both ways. As a man, when you come into work you got to stand up for yourself, at some point. This is a different kinda place to be. This is a different kind of atmosphere to be in and I think as a man you come in here and you kinda earn your respect. Nothing should be given to you. It's hard to get into this locker room."

Cowboys defensive tackle Nick Hayden also didn't know much about the incidents with the Dolphins, but said after a rookie is hazed it should stop the next season.

"No one should be bullying anyone," Hayden said. "But he was not even a first-year player anymore, he was a second-year player. We’re all grown men around here, there’s no need for people pushing other people around."
TAMPA, Fla. -- A battle of words erupted between two former Tampa Bay defensive linemen after one wrote a Facebook post saying the other had bullied teammates and team employees.

After hearing reports about bullying involving the Miami Dolphins, former Tampa Bay defensive end Chidi Ahanotu took to Facebook to reveal that he and other members of the Buccaneers were bullied by Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

“I didn't mean it to be negative toward Warren, but I think, in light of what's going on in the NFL right now, people deserve to know the truth,'' Ahanotu said in an interview with Wednesday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeWarren Sapp and Chidi Ahanotu
AP Photo/Peter CosgroveWarren Sapp (99) and Chidi Ahanotu (72) were teammates in Tampa Bay from 1995 through 2000.
In the Facebook post, Ahanotu said at least four other players and an unspecified number of team employees were bullied by Sapp. In part, Ahanotu wrote:
Players and staff "had physical altercations of varying degrees with Sapp. Virtually [n]othing was off limits to Sapp's verbal attacks & belittling of his teammates & front office staff'."

Ahanotu played for the Bucs from 1993 through 2000. Sapp was with the Bucs from 1995 through 2003.

Sapp, who stopped by the Tampa Bay media room on Wednesday, fired back at Ahanotu after being told about the Facebook page.

“Check the source,'' Sapp said. “I've been in the locker room with Chidi for many years. If you know the nature of the beast, don't be surprised by what it does. He had plenty of time to say whatever he wanted to say about Sapp up until this point. Warren was just as hard on you as he was on himself. I think Derrick Brooks and anyone else that's been in that locker room will tell you. I've been called everything under the sun in this town. This is the first time I've ever heard that and why do you think that is?

“I think I helped him get paid. And then when he got his 10 sacks, didn't come to the offseason conditioning, yeah, I tortured his [butt] because we needed him here in the offseason. If I was going to be here every day, why wasn't he? He got his $30 million deal, I got my $36 million deal and we were out there in the same dirt. But he still says I'm his brother because he knows I was right to get on his [butt] about not being here.''

Ahanotu's comments come as Sapp gets ready to enter the team's Ring of Honor and having his number retired during Monday night's game against the Dolphins. Ahanotu also wrote that Sapp was able to get away with behavior similar to what Miami's Richie Incognito has been accused of because Sapp was an outstanding player.
“A legendary coach once said to us that if a guy is a jerk but he plays football great, then he's not a jerk to him,'' Ahanotu wrote. “Sapp's prowess on the field and national acclaim has been embraced by the Buc owners [the Glazer family], former head coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden and the local media regardless of full knowledge of Sapp's belligerence insulting behavior. In the end, a pass is given to players when they are superstars. Even passes to be included all the way into the [Pro Football] Hall Of Fame. If Richie Incognito was such a superstar, then the nation would never have heard about his bullying altercation.''

Despite being critical of Sapp's behavior, Ahanotu closed the Facebook post by saying he still feels warmly about Sapp.
“And in the end Warren Sapp is my brother regardless of his ways,'' Ahanotu wrote. “Seems fighting in the trenches alongside a man tooth and nail through guts, blood and glory for many, many years can give a man a pass too.''
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin wants people to know they might have the wrong impression of Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Jonathan Martin over the whole hazing situation.

“I know Jonathan’s character,” said Baldwin, who was Martin’s teammate at Stanford. “He’s a great guy and a great friend of mine. He’s never been in any trouble. For this situation to happen it had to be very serious.

“There are some people saying that Jonathan Martin is soft. For anybody to say he can’t handle it is really disappointing to me, and it’s disappointing that our society even has to question it. It’s pathetic to me. We need to look at these things logically and with common sense.”

Baldwin said he believes Martin did the right thing in leaving the team.

“What option did he have?” Baldwin asked. “He could have fought [Richie] Incognito. He could have told on the guys involved, which we know doesn’t go over well in a football locker room, or he could remove himself from the situation, which he did. I think he made the right decision.”

Baldwin said he called Martin this week.

“I reached out to him just to make sure he was OK,” Baldwin said. “I just wanted him to know I was here for him.”

Seattle free safety Earl Thomas said he doesn’t think a similar hazing problem would happen with the Seahawks.

“We have so many great leaders here we don’t have to worry about that," Thomas said. "You never know the type of background guys come from. A lot of guys come from a rugged background. I know where I’m from [Orange, Tex.) the weak don’t survive. But I don’t think it would ever get to that point here. We would nip it in the bud real quick.”