Jonathan Martin didn’t go AWOL from the Miami Dolphins because of a hazing situation with teammate Richie Incognito for purposes of shining a light on the ugly specter of bullying. But that’s what the young tackle has done, and bringing the practice out in the open can hopefully end it somewhere for someone else.
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall played with, likes and stays in touch with Incognito and a number of Dolphins, teammates before Marshall was traded to Chicago. But Marshall’s first thoughts on Wednesday were with the victim.
“You have to be sensitive to the fact of the kid Martin, what he’s going through,” Marshall said. “Prayers definitely for him. A serious situation. That’s something I understand, something I’ve been through, I wish him the best and hopefully he’s getting the care that he needs.”
Coach Marc Trestman established from the outset of his time in Chicago that there would be no serious hazing on his Bears watch.
“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.”
No blaming the victim
Unlike some pundits who effectively blamed the victim by citing his failure to speak up or stand up to a bully, Marshall did not blame the victim. Incognito was/is popular with teammates, meaning that Martin would have risked further ostracizing had he gone after Incognito, and Martin also would have risked taking a beating in the process, worsening the situation.
Marshall also said that the Incognito-Martin situation was not isolated to the Dolphins.
“Sometimes I feel like the NFL, to protect the brand, or the logo of the team, we do things for the publicity,” Marshall said. “Unfortunately, it’s the culture of the NFL. Here, it’s different. We look at rookies different. You have to earn your stripes, earn your place on the team, or earn your place in the NFL.
“As far as crossing that line, disrespecting guys, demeaning guys; that just doesn’t happen here… . Coach [Trestman] just said, ‘hey, we’re going to nip that in the bud, I want guys to focus on football and everyone just focus on their job and not a rookie night or what the guys might do to me the next day.”
Marshall suggested that cultural behavior ingrained at early ages might be reflected in Martin enduring the situation rather than seek help. Where little girls are comforted when they fall down, little boys are urged to “shake it off, you’ll be ok. Don’t cry.’” Marshall said.
“So right there from that moment we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, don’t show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. Can’t show that you’re hurt. Can’t show any pain.
“So for a guy that comes in a locker room and shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem. So that’s what I mean by the culture of the NFL. And that’s what we have to change. What’s going on in Miami goes on in every locker room; but it’s time for us to start talking, maybe have group sessions where guys sit down and talk about what’s going on off the field. What’s going on in the building. And not mask everything. Because the worse it goes untreated, the worse it gets… .
“But it’s time for us to take a look at some things we can do that’s proactive, potentially start with maybe some group sessions, some group therapy, or some other innovative things that’s out there.”