AFC East: NFL culture reaction 131106

Eric Wood adds insight on Incognito

November, 7, 2013
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The situation regarding suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito seemingly changes by the hour, as new developments and viewpoints stream in on the topic.

On Wednesday, more reaction came from the Buffalo Bills locker room, specifically from team captain Eric Wood. In addition to being represented by the same agent, David Dunn, Wood and Incognito were teammates on the Bills in 2009.

Saying he's been in communication with "everybody" about the incident, Wood stepped cautiously around the subject Wednesday.

"Richie is by no means innocent, but there's usually two sides to stories and without knowing everything, I don't want to get on Richie too hard for what happened," he said. "I think the language was a terrible misjudgment. In today's society you just can't use racial language; that's just how it is. Whether they get along really well and they felt comfortable with that, you still can't use it. I think that's kind of like, the voicemail that was released, I think that was the biggest issue of it all."

Wood suggested that Jonathan Martin's agent may be the source of details that emerged about Incognito's involvement.

"Sometimes, from what it appears, the agents got involved. Jonathan was with his family for a few days. Nothing came out, and then all of the sudden the agent released stuff about Richie," Wood said. "I don't know if he's trying to defend his client and maybe throw someone under the bus at the expense of it, but I don't know. I think there's a lot more to the story than meets the eye."

Although teammates for just one season, Wood said he and Incognito remain friends and see each other at events, including the Super Bowl.

"He gets on me. I get on him. But I can take it. I have respect for Richie, he has respect for me," Wood said. "It sounds really weird to outside people, but it's part of the culture. Guys give people a hard time. Especially O-lines that are really close. But you really have to get a feel for guys. As a leader of a football team especially, just a case of misjudgment I believe."

Wood further stressed that Incognito may be misunderstood.

"I don't know what would have provoked him. I'm assuming he felt some back-and-forth banter, which is kind of how he produces his humor. He gets on guys and guys get on him back. He can take it. He's by no means perfect and guys give him a hard time, too," Wood said. "But you have to have respect for a guy, and when a guy is kind of down, which I'm assuming [Martin] was, you have to know when to pull off, and I think he just used some really bad misjudgment."

As far as his own experience, Wood said he has been on the receiving end of friendly banter.

"Guys got on me for a lot of meals. They get on me about my hair. But I'm fine with that. I just kind of roll it off," he said. "Outside the building we all hung out and we all got along. But there's different cases where guys can take it differently. As far as the meals they've gotten me for, I've enjoyed my fair share of meals. And they got me good because I was a first-rounder. First-rounders generally stick around for a while. And they know that you're going to get it back."

Draft status plays into how veterans treat "rookie nights," according to Wood.

"We've had a lot of undrafted offensive linemen who make the team and they might pick up breakfast on a Saturday, but they're not getting the big-time rookie nights that you hear about a Dez Bryant or somebody else getting," he said.

Jets address bullying issue in Miami

November, 4, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito controversy unfolding in Miami, the issue of bullying has become a hot-button issue in the NFL. Several Jets weighed in Monday, including quarterback David Garrard, who spent time with the Dolphins last season.

"I would just say he's a jokester kind of guy," Garrard said of Incognito, adding: "It's unfortunate. You never want it to get to a point where guys want to leave the team. You would hope other guys in the locker room would help police it. It's one of those situations that's sad to see."

Garrard, released by the Dolphins at the end of the 2012 preseason, said he never noticed that type of culture in the Miami locker room.

"I remember Martin when I was there," he said. "He was quiet. He never really said much. Good player. I'm not sure exactly what happened in their locker room down there, but from what I've seen and read, it seems like it went too far and lasted a little too long. He's not a rookie anymore, but they're still doing the same pranks and jokes on him. He's just fed up."

Tight end Konrad Reuland played with Martin for three years at Stanford. He described his former teammate as, "Just another one of the guys. He's a completely down to earth, normal guy in every sense of it."

Reuland said he has no idea what allegedly occurred with Martin, whom he usually sees in the offseason.

"I just hope everything is all right with him," Reuland said.

Several players said they haven't experienced or witnessed any bullying in the Jets' locker room. There was a well-documented incident of rookie hazing in 2010, when several players tied a rookie defensive back named Brian Jackson to a goal post in training camp and doused him with ice, Gatorade and powder. It was captured on HBO's "Hard Knocks."

"There's a fair line for making a guy earn his right of passage and then there's another guy of harassing a guy and making a guy feel degraded," said guard Willie Colon, who signed with the Jets last offseason. "We're all men, we're all professionals, we all come from different walks of life, and I was always taught respect the practice-squad guy to the starter. Treat them all the same. Any time a guy feels disrespect and feels like he can't go to work and is uncomfortable, you can't have that in the locker room. At the end of the day, he's playing and he's playing for you. You have to take care of him."

It's traditional for rookies to take veterans out to dinner and foot the bill. Martin was reportedly asked to pay $15,000 for a trip to Las Vegas.

"It's a culture that's changing, that needs to change because you're messing with a guy's way of living," Colon said. "Nobody can kick up 15 grand and have to pay rent and God knows what else he has to do. I think it's irresponsible his teammates and everybody else. You got to be accountable for how you treat people, and it's tough he had to go through that. I feel sorry for him or whatever."

Jets guard Brian Winters, a rookie, said the most he's told to do by the veterans is buy burgers from a local fast-food joint.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said he has been subjected to "a little bit" of rookie hazing.

"Don't take it to heart, just laugh it off," he said. "Or you could be like me and Dee (Milliner) and talk back a little bit. There might be a little consequences that go along with it, but I can deal with it at this point in my life. It's all fun and games, and the vets know not too take it too far and they keep it all in perspective."

Richardson has been asked to buy food before away games and bring donuts on Fridays for meetings. In camp, he and Milliner got angry when their mattresses were flipped over and everything was on the floor. He still doesn't know who did it.

"Cold case right there," he said.