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Extra Points: 'A Few Good Men' meets 'Revenge of the Nerds'
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - When the 0-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like a sea of tranquility in comparison, you know you've had a rough week.
The Miami Dolphins seized the title of "team turmoil" over the past few days just as they are preparing to face the embattled Greg Schiano and his winless Bucs on "Monday Night Football."
In fact, MRSA infections, lunging at the opposition's knees while they're in the victory formation or "Fire Schiano" signs seem quaint compared to the firestorm that erupted in South Florida when Dolphins second-year offensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the team and accused linemate Richie Incognito of bullying him incessantly.
Incognito, who began his career with the St. Louis Rams in 2005 and has been marred by a reputation as a dirty player, is firmly entrenched as the villain in this narrative especially after a voicemail surfaced with him using a racial slur and threatening physical harm to Martin and his family.
The Dolphins indefinitely suspended Incognito, who has a history of erratic behavior dating back to his collegiate days at the University of Nebraska, for conduct detrimental to the team.
Martin, meanwhile, is currently away from the Dolphins after abruptly leaving the club following an incident in the team cafeteria in which several teammates left a table as he was about to sit down in an apparent prank.
"We believe in maintaining a culture of respect for one another and as a result we believe this (suspension of Incognito) is in the best interest of the organization at this time," the Dolphins said in a statement." As we noted earlier, we reached out to the NFL to conduct an objective and thorough review. We will continue to work with the league on this matter."
The league appointed Ted Wells, one of the nation's most prominent attorneys, to direct an independent investigation into issues of workplace conduct around the organization and prepare a report for commissioner Roger Goodell, which will be made public.
"Ted Wells will independently direct the investigation and submit a report to me," commissioner Goodell said. "Mr. Wells will conduct a thorough and objective investigation. He will ensure that we have all the facts so that we can address this matter constructively."
The issue seems cut and dry to most but for those indoctrinated in the NFL's tough-man culture, it's anything but.
Some believe Incognito was asked by the Miami coaching staff to "toughen up" Martin, and many of his teammates, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, have defended Incognito.
Tannehill called Incognito "a great teammate to me" and said the nine-year veteran guard brought a lot of laughter and cohesiveness to the locker room.
"He's the best teammate you could ask for," the second-year signal caller said.
Tannehill also claimed an accurate description of Incognito and Martin would be that they were like best friends and brothers.
"If you asked Jonathan Martin a week before who his best friend is he would have said Richie Incognito," Tannehill said Wednesday. "I would say Jonathan is like Richie's little brother. I think that's an accurate description. He gave him a hard time, he messed with him, but he was the first guy to have his back."
Martin's camp struck back on Thursday night claiming Martin's toughness is not in question and his treatment went far beyond good-natured hazing or any other comparable hijinks.
"Jonathan Martin's toughness is not at issue," his lawyer David Cornwell said in the statement. "Jonathan has started every game with the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in 2012. At Stanford, he was the anchor for Jim Harbaugh's 'smash mouth' brand of football and he protected Andrew Luck's blind side.
"The issue is Jonathan's treatment by his teammates. Jonathan endured harassment that went far beyond the traditional locker room hazing. For the entire season-and-a-half that he was with the Dolphins, he attempted to befriend the same teammates who subjected him to the abuse with the hope that doing so would end the harassment. This is a textbook reaction of victims of bullying. Despite these efforts, the taunting continued. Beyond the well- publicized voice mail with its racial epithet, Jonathan endured a malicious physical attack on him by a teammate. These facts are not in dispute.
"Eventually, Jonathan made a difficult choice. Despite his love for football, Jonathan left the Dolphins. Jonathan looks forward to getting back to playing football. In the meantime, he will cooperate fully with the NFL investigation."
The statement also included an alleged vulgar quote from an anonymous teammate directed at Martin's sister.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said if the NFL decides there was wrongdoing the team "will take all necessary measures to fix it and to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Many have reached for the movie classic "A Few Good Men" when describing the scandal with Jack Nicholson's Col. Jessup playing the role of Philbin or at least the marine-looking offensive line coach Jim Turner and ordering the "Code Red" in an attempt to toughen up the Stanford-soft Martin.
You can almost here Turner defending his behavior to Wells.
"My existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, toughens players. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me pushing these players, you need me pushing there players. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent pursing a championship. You use them as a punchline."
So many people outside of football, where things like a Stanford education are actually something to be quite proud of, just can't comprehend people like Incognito exist but understand he's no stand-alone monster.
Remember the Lions' Dominic Raiola, another Nebraska offensive lineman by the way, verbally attacking the University of Wisconsin marching band before Detroit's game in Green Bay earlier this season?
Or how about former tight end Cam Cleeland's description of "running the gauntlet" while a rookie with New Orleans. The kicks and punches were expected, but one teammate (linebacker Andre Royal) rocked him in the face with a sock full of coins, nearly costing Cleeland his eye.
"Coach (Mike) Ditka gave me a speech as soon as it was done," Cleeland told the Los Angeles Times. "He was like, 'Oh, man, you should have just popped those guys in the mouth.' I said, 'Coach, there were 60 of them.'"
It's not hard to draw a line for most of us.
Young players picking up coffee and doughnuts or dry cleaning is no big deal. Heck, even "King Ugly" contests and getting taped to the goal posts are harmless for the most part.
When that morphs into threats or physical violence, however, it doesn't take an investigator to tell us something is wrong.
So forget about "A Few Good Men," this is Lewis Skolnick fighting back against the Stan Gables and Ogres of the world -- this is "Revenge of the Nerds" or at least revenge of the 6-foot-5, 320-pound highly-educated who don't want to participate in an archaic culture quietly protected and kept away from the rest of civilized society.
11/08 13:39:17 ET