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Friday, November 8, 2013
Some prefer neither Martin nor Incognito

By Coley Harvey

CINCINNATI -- An anonymous, unscientific survey of 72 NFL players conducted this week by ESPN.com's team reporters revealed that Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin was overwhelmingly viewed as the more favorable teammate in the now nine-day-long saga involving him and teammate Richie Incognito.

Incognito, who has been suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins for his part in a bullying scandal that has swept over the league and saw Martin leave the team, has received public support from many of his teammates in recent days, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Support for Incognito has run thin in other locker rooms, though. The survey, which was released Friday afternoon, found that only 21 percent of NFL players would consider Incognito a good teammate. Another 47 percent believe Martin was the better teammate.

And then there's that other 32 percent who don't side with either one. In their eyes, both Martin and Incognito were at fault in this situation that has already spilled over into its second week of games. Their thinking, it seems, is that Martin could be tougher, and that Incognito should have had a better grasp on what specifically he was saying or doing to a particular teammate.

"It's all about knowing personalities," was the way one Cincinnati Bengals player put it.

To that player, who was one of the 23 respondents who said both Martin and Incognito were poor teammates, there were no "real men" in this incident.

"That's the thing about this locker room," he said, speaking of the Bengals. "We have real men in here. There's none of this fake, facade thing where you don't know what you're getting. If I have a problem with one of my teammates, I let him know. We all let each other know. You've got to talk."

Both Martin and Incognito would make bad teammates, according to this Bengals player, because "one was too soft and one was too aggressive." The player bemoaned the fact that there was seemingly no middle ground between Martin and Incognito. Since neither appeared to properly hold the other in check, he didn't feel comfortable saying he wanted either to be his teammate.

His sentiments were echoed by another Bengals player who also questioned Martin's ability to stand up for himself, while also wondering how Incognito thought it was OK to leave the type of messages laced with racial epithets and profanities on Martin's phone that he did.

In addition to the bullying issue, the issue of hazing, both financially and physically, has come up this week because of the scenario that's playing out in South Florida.

The first Bengals player said he felt a measure of hazing occurred in the league, and that when he was a rookie, he spent as much as $10,000 on dinners purchased for teammates. He said he viewed the purchases as the equivalent of "a tax write-off."

"It will all come back to you," the Bengals player said. "That's the thing you have to realize is that it'll all come back."

Asked to explain that comment, the player said that form of hazing was just one way of having the young players feeling they belonged to something bigger than themselves. Near the end of the year, he said players on that team all bought one another Christmas presents as a way of making sure no one on the team felt they were investing so much externally without feeling that they weren't part of the team.

It should be pointed out that this player did not begin his career in the Bengals organization. Other players who did had vastly different and much less expensive rookie seasons. The other Bengals player mentioned above said he helped pitch in to buy chicken from Popeye's for veterans when he first arrived to Cincinnati. He figured he might have spent $50 helping with the whole meal.

With so much still unknown in the Incognito-Martin story, it's tough to say who is completely right and who is completely wrong at this point. What is known, though, is that there are a lot of NFL players who wouldn't lose any sleep if either player never stepped foot in another locker room again.