AFC North: Stevie Johnson

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Clark applauded the restraint Jonathan Martin showed in dealing with alleged harassment from a Miami Dolphins teammate.

But the outspoken Pittsburgh Steelers free safety would not have faulted Martin had he reacted in an extreme manner after enduring bullying from Richie Incognito.

“I honestly wouldn’t have had any problem with Jonathan Martin hitting Richie Incognito in the head with a weight,” Clark said, “but that’s illegal and he’d go to jail and he shouldn’t do that. I think he handled it the right way by not being physical, by not causing more trouble by making a rash, emotional decision to retaliate with physical action.”

Martin abruptly left the Dolphins last week, setting in motion a story that has transfixed the nation because of its many layers, including NFL locker-room conduct and the issue of bullying happening in the most unlikely of places.

Steelers right guard David DeCastro is good friends with Martin -- the two started on Stanford’s offensive line for three seasons together -- and he said he has talked to his former Cardinal teammate.

“I just called him to make sure he was alright,” DeCastro said. “I could care less about football. I just wanted to make sure he was OK as a person and he is so that’s good, that’s what’s important.”

When asked if he thinks Martin still has the desire to play football, DeCastro said, “That’s up to him.”

Clark said the atmosphere that caused Martin to leave the Dolphins -- and put his football future in question -- needs to be addressed with some sort of league guidelines.

But, Clark conceded, a uniform policy is tricky since there can be such a fine line between what is considered a rite of passage for a young player and hazing -- or bullying in the extreme case that the NFL and Dolphins are sorting through right now.

“It’s not like a helmet-to-helmet hit that’s obvious where something like this you have to look subjectively and say, ‘Ah, this is how egregious I think this is,’ and that’s extremely hard,” Clark said. “I think some guidelines should be set in place. No one should have to endure that in their workplace whether they work for IBM or for the Miami Dolphins.”

Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson agreed.

“It’s a tough issue but at the end of the day you’ve got to respect each other man,” Johnson said Wednesday during a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters. “That’s what it comes down to.”

AFC North links: Leon Hall on the mend

March, 7, 2012
Baltimore Ravens

The agent for quarterback Joe Flacco and center Matt Birk is expected to meet with the Ravens next week to discuss a contract.

Former coach Brian Billick says there wasn't a bounty system in place when he was running the team.

Cincinnati Bengals

Safety Reggie Nelson is the lone Bengals representative on Pete Prisco's list of the top NFL free agents.

Leon Hall remains on track to be ready for training camp.

Cleveland Browns

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita has admitted to paying teammates for big plays, but not for injuring an opponent. Fujita: "Over the years I've paid out a lot of money for big plays like interceptions, sacks and special teams tackles inside the 20. But I've never made a payment for intentionally injuring another player."

Browns center Alex Mack is visiting troops this week in the Middle East.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette draws comparisons between Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace and Bills wideout Stevie Johnson. His conclusion: There is no comparison.