Lydon Murtha, who played his high school football at Hutchinson High and went on to star at Nebraska before joining the Dolphins from 2009-12 has an interesting piece on Monday Morning Quarterback today about the culture of the locker room in Miami.
I went to college at Nebraska with Richie Incognito, and I consider myself friends with him and Jonathan Martin, but I don’t speak with them regularly and I’m not taking sides. I’m only interested in the truth, which is what I’m going to share, from my own experiences and from conversations with friends still on the team.
Martin was expected to play left tackle beside Incognito at guard from the start, so Incognito took him under his wing. They were close friends by all appearances. Martin had a tendency to tank when things would get difficult in practice, and Incognito would lift him up. He’d say, there’s always tomorrow. Richie has been more kind to Martin than any other player.
In other situations, when Martin wasn’t showing effort, Richie would give him a lot of crap. He was a leader on the team, and he would get in your face if you were unprepared or playing poorly. The crap he would give Martin was no more than he gave anyone else, including me. Other players said the same things Incognito said to Martin, so you’d need to suspend the whole team if you suspend Incognito.
Which brings me to my first point: I don’t believe Richie Incognito bullied Jonathan Martin. I never saw Martin singled out, excluded from anything, or treated any differently than the rest of us. We’d have dinners and the occasional night out, and everyone was invited. He was never told he can’t be a part of this. It was the exact opposite. But when he came out, he was very standoffish. That’s why the coaches told the leaders, bring him out of his shell. Figure him out a little bit.
The most unfortunate thing about this situation is the consequence it will have on the careers of both men. Richie’s marked himself now as a racist and a bigot, and unfortunately that could be the end of it. Martin is on the opposite end of the spectrum, but no more likely than Incognito to return to the NFL if he wants. In going to the media with his problem, Martin broke the code, and it shows that he’s not there for his teammates and he’s not standing up for himself. There might be a team that gives him a chance because he’s a good person, but the players will reject him. They’ll think, If I say one thing he’s going to the press. He’ll never earn the respect of teammates and personnel in the NFL because he didn’t take care of business the right way.
Murtha didn't excuse Incognito for his racial slur, but he did attempt to explain or rationalize everything else, depending on how you look at it.
As we gather more opinions on this story, it becomes clear that we're dealing with an issue of where we draw the line when it comes to locker room culture and who we believe. It's not shocking to see so much defense of Incognito; then again, it is.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.