As the Richie Incognito bullying story exploded beyond the NFL early this week, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher blasted the veteran players in the Miami Dolphins locker room who did not stop the alleged harassment of second-year pro Jonathan Martin.
“I know Incognito is the one that’s the main culprit, but he’s probably not the only guy that’s gonna come out of it as a guy that was giving Jonathan Martin a hard time, going beyond what the norm is,” Fletcher said after practice at Redskins Park on Tuesday. “Maybe you make the rookie carry your shoulder pads, bring in breakfast, things like that, but what it seems like was going on there was beyond hazing, beyond your normal rookie-type deals. I’m real disappointed in the leadership in that locker room down there in Miami.”
Meanwhile, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan insists he has never encountered that level of threatening behavior in his 39 years as a coach in the league.
“You do get, at times, guys that are a little bit more nervous or younger guys, rookies, than the other guys and you’ve kind of got to watch over them,” Shanahan said on Monday. “Because sometimes one person might be a little bit shy, one person’s a little different type of personality. And at least over the years we try to keep an eye on those type of young guys.”
Shanahan told reporters that while some NFL coaches do endorse some form of mild hazing, that’s never been his style beyond the usual rookie rituals – carrying equipment off the field or singing college fight songs during training camp. His players reiterated that claim.
“You want these guys to feel comfortable.” Shanahan said. “Even though they do have to carry shoulder pads and things along those lines. But everybody treats [rookies] a little bit different.”
Incognito, a Dolphins offensive lineman, is accused in multiple media reports of harassing Martin, who left the team last week and has yet to return. Incognito allegedly sent racist and threatening texts and phone calls to Martin, a fellow lineman, over the past year. He was suspended indefinitely on Sunday by the organization. Martin is in his second NFL season. Incognito is a ninth-year veteran.
“Who was the leader on that team that I know Jonathan Martin didn’t feel comfortable enough to go to any of those guys? Fletcher said. “Because either you’re encouraging it or you’re just turning a blind eye to allow a guy to get treated like he was getting treated.”
Like Shanahan, Fletcher, too, insisted he’d never seen close to that level of abuse from one teammate to another in 16 years in the NFL. And he was especially incensed about the texts that reportedly used racial slurs against Martin. Incognito is white.
“Not from a white person, from a white guy, from a white teammate. I think you have to be conscious of that,” Fletcher said. “What [Incognito] said, obviously, that shows a bit of racism – not even a bit. That obviously shows racism, bigotry. To leave a voicemail like that – he probably said that to the guy’s face. He was very bold, and I don’t know if he said it around other guys or if it was just something he said to Jonathan in his own privacy, but you can’t allow somebody to be that comfortable around you to use that type of language at all.”