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In retrospect, it seems that label had little to do with how Martin performed on the field and everything to do with how he dealt with those around him. There are reports of Martin resisting the traditional initiation rookies have long endured, from silly pranks to paying for meals that can cost thousands of dollars. That surely didn’t win him any friends. And it’s easy to see him rejecting overtures to hang out with his fellow linemen away from the training facility, especially if they were giving him such a hard time. That would’ve made him even more of a pariah.

And, in the midst of all that, the mandate came down from somebody: Make this guy “tougher.”

What they really meant: Make this guy conform.

“I don’t know if you can really do that,” White said. “You get guys from different backgrounds, different personalities, all these guys coming from different histories. You can’t really say, `I’m going to make this guy tougher’ or `I’m going to make this guy be this type of player.’ You can’t really transform players.”

That said, it takes a thick skin to survive in an NFL locker room.

It can get very, very cruel in there.

“It’s like being in a room with a bunch of comedians. It’s funny. It makes you laugh,” said Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who’s pretty much seen it all during his 17 years in the league. “But just as comedians are, sometimes they push the line. They go overboard a little bit and say stuff that’s racially or economically (charged). Nothing’s out of bounds in this locker room. Any type of insecurity you have, whatever it is, they’re going to play on it. Anything goes.”

Against the backdrop, the Dolphins may have been the perfect storm: an especially sensitive young player; a veteran tormenter with a history of over-the-top behavior; a perennially losing team with a relatively new coaching staff; a roster that had undergone such heavy turnover there was no one to step in when things got out of hand.

There will surely be calls to cut back on _ or even eliminate _ some of the treatment that young players have been subjected to for as long as there’s been an NFL.

That, too, would be a mistake.

Most of the so-called hazing that goes on is all in good fun and perhaps does contribute to a sense of bonding that is so vital for the success of a team with a 53 disparate personalities.

With the Falcons, for instance, the rookies are expected to lug the shoulder pads of the veteran players back to the locker room after each practice during training camp

“It’s not really hazing,” White said. “It’s just a respect factor.”

Respect works both ways.

That’s the most important thing we can learn from this sordid affair.

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