Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bullying report shows NFL's dark side

Looking back, trouble really wasn't that difficult of a cocktail for the Miami Dolphins to mix.

On the other hand, neither is dynamite.

As we wade through the swill of the 144-page Wells report that gives us our lasting images of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin embarrassment, that's the impression that stands. This scandal didn't take that many parts in order to grow.

Yes, this could have happened elsewhere. It could have happened in Oakland or New York or Dallas or Chicago or Detroit or, yes, Tampa Bay.

All you need is one thug.

And one, according to the report, "particularly sensitive'' soul.

Also, a couple of assistant bullies to prop up the main bully.

Add in one assistant coach to enable the entire mess. And one head coach to walk blindly through the building seeing nothing, hearing nothing.

Oh, yes. And a team and a large part of a fan base that seems to be lining up to support the wrong guy.

That, just that, and a football team has embarrassed itself, its franchise and its league. That, just that, and a career is in ruins, and another is in doubt, and an average football team is trying to explain the stain.

In plain language, no, this wasn't a bunch of athletes playing rough or being vulgar for the sound of it. This was harassment. This was bullying. This was wrong.

Some days, it seems, Roger Goodell doesn't make enough money.

This one is going to be tricky for Goodell, who has to come away from this mess with some sense of how to de-louse a locker room. Think of it as teaching etiquette to cavemen. By their natures, professional locker rooms can be nasty places, with insulting humor and rowdy conduct.

And still, there is a line that a player — a worker, if you will — cannot cross. Vulgar comments about a player's sister? About a player's mother? About a player's race?

There is nothing soft about protesting any of that. There is nothing weak about protesting the noise of the workplace loudmouth. There is nothing about a locker room that allows a lack of human decency.

According to the Wells report, an independent investigation, this went far, far beyond what was civil. In the end, none of us would have put up with what Martin had to endure.

Somehow, that message seems to have been twisted by perception. To a lot of people, Incognito is the player being mistreated here, not Martin. Why? Because we expect NFL players to be louts. We shrug it off as their nature, as part of the nastiness of the job they are asked to perform.

Remember when Robbie Alomar, a baseball player, spat on an umpire? He was vilified. But when football players such as Bill Romanowski and Hardy Nickerson spat on opposing players, there really wasn't a lot of criticism.

When a former NBA player named Latrell Sprewell attacked his coach, he was castigated. But when a Carolina linebacker named Kevin Greene attacked an assistant coach on the sideline, the protests were fairly mild. Why? Because there is an expectation that football players will live on the edge. We understand why players such as former Cardinal Conrad Dobler bite in the pileups.

This mentality is at work with Incognito, too. A lot of people shrug off his insults to Martin as "just toughening him up.'' But ask yourself: Who in the world has Incognito ever toughened up? Really?

As a player, Incognito is an above-average guard who has made one Pro Bowl (as a replacement). He was kicked out of two colleges after attending anger management classes at both. In 2009, he was voted the NFL's dirtiest player. In games he has started in the NFL, his team's record is 35-67.

In other words, the guy isn't exactly a molder of men, is he?

Look, Incognito wasn't acting out of any greater good for his team. He was being a bully. Nothing more. He wasn't making his teammates better. He was making himself feel more powerful.

In the NFL, the Richie Incognito types spring up where there is weak leadership. You never see them playing for New England or the Giants or the Seahawks. Incognito only happened in Miami because an assistant coach named Jim Turner allowed it and, according to the Wells report, took part in the bullying. He happened because head coach Joe Philbin was clueless that a scandal of this size was brewing on his team.

In some ways, the suggestion that Philbin knew nothing is far worse than his lack of action. Isn't his job to keep a thumb on the pulse of the Dolphins?

As for Martin? The sad part of all of this is that Martin seemed to be one of those players who needed a little guidance from an older player. According to the Wells report, he was particularly tough on himself when he wasn't playing well, enough so that he considered suicide on two occasions. Maybe he could have used a little advice to lean on along the way.

He certainly didn't need someone talking about his sister or throwing racial slurs at him. The actions of Incognito, and Mike Pouncey, and John Jerry were the worst things for him.

And yet, the public reaction to Martin has not been kind. To many, he is the guy who left his team because he couldn't take it, not the guy who was thrown in with a bunch of Neanderthals and told to survive. The rest of us fail Martin when we fail to consider the scope of his bullies and how they scorched his career.

If you are Goodell, you have to bring your league to the point where this type of behavior cannot be tolerated. You have to instruct your coaches. You have to add team liaisons. You have to provide a place where a player such as Martin can turn when the treatment becomes too difficult to endure.

A better team, a team with more substance, would have allowed Martin to stay.

It would have told Incognito to go.

Comments
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

NFL playoff chase

Playoff chaseNFCPos. Team Rec Div ConfDivision leaders1. Eagles-E-* 12-2 5-0 10-12. Vikings-N-z 11-3 3-1 8-23. Rams-W 10-4 4-1 7-44. Saints-S 10-4 3-1 7-3Wild card5. Panthers 10-4 2-2 6-46. Falcons 8-5 2-1 7-2Contention7. Lions 8-6 4-1 7-48. Seahawks...
Updated: 5 hours ago
NFL Week 15: What we learned

NFL Week 15: What we learned

First the Phillies sign ex-Rays reliever Tommy Hunter. Then Eagles backup QB Nick Foles steps in for MVP candidate Carson Wentz and throws four TD passes in a 34-29 come-from-behind win at the Giants. What a week for Philly fans, huh? The win clinche...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17
McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

As if containing Julio Jones and the Falcons offense weren't challenging enough, the Bucs will try to so Monday night without perhaps their top two defensive players in DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David.Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on Saturday ruled bo...
Published: 12/16/17
Bucs’ Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucs’ Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucs safety T.J. Ward will make a healthy return Monday after missing two games with a concussion, and it's also a chance to face his brother Terron, a running back with the Falcons."Our whole family's going to be there, rooting us on," T.J. said aft...
Published: 12/16/17
Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didn’t leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You don’t even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what you’re talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Published: 12/16/17
Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not win the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team. Don’t believe me? Ask Dungy. "It wasn’t. They did a great job. They took it and tweaked it," Dungy said. "The same way I got a great (Colts) tea...
Published: 12/16/17