What Did Some Broncos Players Say About Incognito and Martin?by BSN on 11/05/13
By Brandon Spano
As I walked through the Broncos locker room on Monday, I stopped by the lockers of three players that I knew pretty well. I asked them about the situation surrounding Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito and heard a wide range of responses.
Incognito has been suspended indefinitely for bullying second year player Jonathan Martin. The bullying eventually escalated to the point that Martin walked out of Dolphins headquarters and has no plan to come back anytime soon.
According to a source obtained by CBS analyst Jason LaConfora, this “was not an isolated incident -- not even close.” The source confirmed that “It's been going on almost since they drafted him.” Apparently, Incognito was not the only player involved in the bullying and it was known throughout the team that Martin was being picked on heavily by the rest of the offensive line. Incognito, who has a pretty nasty rap-sheet connected to him already, is the one who is being deemed as the ring leader.
In a series of four tweets, ESPN’s Adam Schefter shared this voicemail from Incognito to Martin:
There was not one player that I talked to that knew the details of this story. Some said, “Incognito? He’s the bully right?” A few others asked me to tell them what happened and some didn’t even know that he had been suspended. None of the players that I talked to were aware of the voicemail.
There is nothing strange about this. They have been on their break and had a lot going on with their own coach at the time. The players had gotten to the facility early on Monday morning for team meetings and had not been privy to the same social media findings that we all were.
I think this detail is important because these opinions were immediate reactions from people (yes, they are people) who had not seen the intense details that we had seen that morning.
One player that I spent a lengthy amount of time talking to was appalled by the specifics. He agreed with me that this is not something that would ever happen in the Broncos locker room. In fact, almost every player that I talked to agreed that there is no way that a situation could get this out of hand at Dove Valley and that there must have been a serious lack of leadership for something to go so far. The breaking point for this particular player seemed to be the racist comments. As tough as these men are, racism is not acceptable.
When I asked him if it was commonplace to hit a rookie with a $30,000.00 restaurant tab, he said “he was a second round draft pick right?” When I concurred, he said, “Well than he can afford it. They usually won’t hit the lower picks with the big bills.”
Martin was reportedly forced into paying for a $15,000.00 team vacation to Vegas that he didn’t even attend and even more recently, one Dolphins rookie told a member of the Miami Herald that he was finally broke after paying a $30,000.00 restaurant tab for some of the veterans on the squad.
The player did note that the Broncos team captains would never let a player abuse another in this manner. Unfortunately, and unbelievably, Richie Incognito was a team captain.
Another player shared an opinion that was much closer to the expected “tough guy” mindset that most fans assume runs rampant in the NFL. This particular player thought that Incognito was certainly in the wrong but that Jonathan Martin needed to put his foot down and say enough was enough. At one point he looked at me and said, “We’re talking about grown men, man.”
I asked him about the $30,000.00 restaurant tab and he laughed. He looked over to a young player and said, “what did you pay last time?” Laughing, the young player said, “Not thirty! Maybe fifteen!” He turned back to me and said, “you gotta have tough skin to make it in this league - it aint for everybody.”
Maybe he‘s right, it aint for everybody. Maybe the sport where men put their health on the line once per week and spend their days off sitting in a cold tub is not for the weak at heart. Just maybe, the weak can be sniffed out and taken advantage of. We ask lineman to “pancake block” but then ask them to act like gentlemen when the sixty minutes is over. Just maybe, this league is not for Jonathan Martin.
On the other hand, it is a work place. It is a place where
men hone their craft and offer their abilities to an organization in order to
get a “job“ done. At least that’s where the line has been placed.
It seems like everybody is saying that Jonathan Martin should have been able to go to work without being scared. But what if being scared makes you ineligible for this job? Should a 305 pound man whose job is to break the will of other men succumb to bullying in his second year?
Would Tom Nalen or Gary Zimmerman have gotten bullied so bad that they became scared to come to work? Or were those players born with the mental make-up to not only handle a situation like this, but to look Incognito in the face and let him know that he wasn’t the only pit-bull in the dog pen? I’m assuming that one offseason voice mail like the one that Schefter shared with us would have been just enough to put Incognito in a dangerous place amongst most NFL lineman.
What was the difference between Martin and every other lineman on that team? Maybe it was that Incognito knew that Martin would never defend himself.
That’s precisely what one Broncos player told me. After reading him the voicemail, his jaw dropped in awe and he said, “And they didn’t fight? “ I responded, “No they didn’t fight, Martin eventually walked out.” In shock, he said, “He walked out?” I said, “Yeah, he walked out and reported Richie for bullying. Apparently he was scared to come to work.”
Then the term that I had already heard once before came out, “We are grown men.” He repeated, “We are grown men.” And then he said with conviction, “There is a code around here. Everything stays in-house. It doesn’t mean that we get to do that (bullying) to each other, but we are brothers and sometimes brothers have to fight each other – and when it’s over, its over.”
The player admitted that he had a few run-ins with some veterans in his rookie year and that he even had to draw the line a few times and stand up for himself, but said that it never came close to the situation that unfolded in Miami. I wondered how many times Jonathan Martin stood up for himself.
Through all of this I learned that almost every player was disgusted with Richie Incognito but at the same time, they didn’t understand why Jonathan Martin allowed himself to get walked on and disrespected like that. They didn’t seem to respect the actions of either man.
The other thing I learned is that this type of bullying might not be commonplace in every NFL locker room, but the expectations of rookies paying huge tabs at restaurants definitely is. I get the feeling that the story in Miami might be a little excessive in comparison the rest of the league though. These Broncos players seem to watch out for each other more than players on other teams do.
What happened in Miami is wrong and I am truly disgusted by Richie Incognito but I also can't help but wonder if Jonathan Martin is cut out for a life in the NFL. I certainly walked out of the locker room with a much different perspective than I walked into the locker room with.
I didn't use names in this column because I didn't think it was fair to those players who opened up to me about a very complicated subject that they could be highly scrutinized for.