Cardinals haze but know their limits

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
8:24
PM ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- As more information comes to light about how Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito reportedly bullied teammate Jonathan Martin beyond the rookie hazing phase, one comment has stood out to players in the Arizona Cardinals' locker room.

Incognito crossed a line when he used a racial slur toward Martin, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.

"There's no place in our game, no place in our society for that type of behavior," Fitzgerald said Tuesday.

According to multiple reports, Incognito left Martin a voicemail in April in which he uses the slur among other derogatory comments.

Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has had his own issues with Incognito from years of facing him in the trenches when Incognito played for the St. Louis Rams. Dockett wasn't surprised to hear about the offensive lineman verbally assaulting his teammate. Not just any teammate, Dockett pointed out, but the one guy who lines up next to you on the left side of the offensive line every Sunday.

"I don't think no one in the NFL in the last 70 years would do something like that," Dockett said. "That's why I said it doesn't surprise me that that guy does it. Everybody talking about it and I'm looking like, are you surprised he did that?

"When you try to bully a guy on your team, that's so classless to me. I feel bad for the young guy because I do feel like, as a veteran, you're supposed to help the young guys develop and help him develop to be a better player on and off the field, and not abuse him and send him text messages and call him the N-word and things like that.

"Again, I don't have no respect for the guy."

Allegedly, Incognito's disdain toward Martin began last season when Martin was a rookie. The Dolphins hazed the rookies, like every team in the league does, said Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who played for the Dolphins the past three seasons. It's a rite of passage in the eyes of the veterans, who went through the same rituals when they entered the league.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has put restrictions on his veterans. This year's rookies were allowed to bring veterans breakfast and water, and carried their pads and helmets off the field after practice. During training camp, one night was dedicated to giving the rookies haircuts.

That was the worst of it, and Arians made sure of it.

"You just go and say it, 'This is all you're allowed to do,'" Arians said. "We let our guys cut some hair and hair grows back. Your feelings get hurt a little bit if you have an ugly haircut but at least you can fix it in a month. That's the extent of what we're going to do around here.

"I don't worry about it because I don't see that happening here."

Dockett said the Cardinals' vets treat rookies with the Golden Rule -- Do on to others as you'd want others to do on to you. To Dockett, that means no name calling, no bullying, nothing that would make them look at the vets as adversaries.

While the general idea of rookie hazing is to form a bond that will withstand a season and potentially even longer, they're still teammates at the end of the day, Dockett said. And why would a veteran want to harm a relationship that could help the team in the long run, Dockett wondered.

"We still understand that that's one of our teammates and we're going to need him at some point," Dockett said. "We want them to look at us like big brothers, if they have any questions. We don't want a young guy looking at us like we're an enemy, [thinking] he don't like us and things like that. That's not how you build chemistry at all because I do believe at some point on every football team you're going to need a young guy to step up and play a big part and a role in trying to have some success.

"We don't come close to that."

Josh Weinfuss

ESPN Arizona Cardinals reporter

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