The Dolphins may have rebounded from last Sunday's loss to the Patriots Thursday by beating Cincinnati, but they apparently have some big issues to work through in their locker room.
Tackle Jonathan Martin, a second round pick from last year's draft, reportedly walked out on the Dolphins Monday after an incident in the team's cafeteria. According to a report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, several of Martin's fellow offensive lineman invited the second-year tackle to sit with them at lunch on Monday, only to get up and leave as soon as Martin sat down.
Martin, who had apparently been abused constantly ever since joining the Dolphins in 2012, slammed his tray down, cursed out his teammates and left the facility, heading straight to a hospital to seek treatment. He is reportedly with his family now as he deals with the situation.
This already bizarre story took another turn last night when it was reported that guard Richie Incognito (big surprise there) is under investigation by the NFLPA for his alleged role in Martin's distress. There have been lots of conflicting anonymous sources talking on this issue, ranging from calling Incognito a "model citizen" (a laughable claim) to confirming Incognito's role in Martin's breakdown.
Martin, who was listed as "Out" for Thursday Night's game with an illness, has reportedly reached out to teammates, including Incognito, in the aftermath of his sudden departure. The following is excerpted from a text conversation between Martin and Incognito. Via Jeff Darlington
"Yeah, I'm good man. It's insane bro, but just know I don't blame you guys at all. It's just the culture around football, and the locker room got to me a little."I am not in the Dolphins locker room and certainly cannot say with any authority what is going on with this situation. However, it's clear that Martin was being bullied in Miami. There is simply too much smoke to this story for there to not be any fire. Whether it was, as some unnamed Dolphins have claimed, "normal locker room stuff" or more remains to be seen.
I also suspect that the tremendous professional pressure Martin was under contributed to his breakdown. The departure of stalwart left tackle Jake Long this offseason left Martin to protect Ryan Tannehill's all-important blindside. After a good enough rookie season at right tackle, Martin struggled so much in his new role that the team was forced to trade for perennially out of shape Bryant McKinnie to shore things up. Martin's issues on the field were leading to a great deal of criticism, some warranted, some over-the-top, both from fans and surely coaches and teammates.
Either way, it certainly doesn't reflect well on the franchise that a high draft pick felt compelled to leave after a year and a half due to workplace harassment. Every NFL locker room has it's share of good-natured ribbing, but no locker room with veterans worth their salt would allow it to get so bad that a teammate would up and leave midseason. There's something to be said for keeping it loose in the locker room, but not to the extent where the end goal of winning games is compromised. Chasing off a starting offensive tackle can only hurt the team.
Martin becomes the second high profile case this year (Rolando McClain being the others) of a young, highly touted draft pick having to abruptly and voluntarily leave their team for personal reasons. For those with common sense, it's encouraging to see players are starting to realize that their mental health should not be sacrificed, at least not to dangerous extents, for the sake of football. These guys are human beings first and football players second. Best of luck to you, Jonathan Martin.