NFL trains players on being a good teammate

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It remains to be seen whether the situation unfolding with the Dolphins arose from one player making an abnormal reaction to normal interactions among teammates or whether the player in question was subjected to hazing that crossed the line into harassment.

Regardless, the NFL provides players with information regarding the expected behavior among teammates.  Via league spokesman Brian McCarthy, the issues of behavior in the workplace and “being a good teammate and professional” are addressed during the Rookie Symposium and during training camp each year.

The information crafted by lawyers and communicated in meeting rooms likely gets ignored or disregarded from time to time in the locker room, which while technically still a workplace has a Peter Pan quality where boys remain boys for as long as they can remain professional athletes.

In this specific case, Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin decided that he had enough of whatever was happening.  After apparently spending multiple days pondering whether to blow the whistle on teammates like guard Richie Incognito or try to find a way back to the team without pointing fingers, Martin decided to stand up to a bully not by punching him in the face (which ESPN’s Mike Ditka recklessly and repeatedly has been advocating) but by going through the channels that the league instructs players who are being harassed to utilize.

The NFL’s personal conduct policy prohibits “[v]iolent or threatening behavior among employees, whether in or outside the workplace.”  By responding to a potential violation of the personal conduct policy with violence, the player victimized by harassment would be violating the personal conduct policy, too.

For Incognito, who already has been suspended by the Dolphins for conduct detrimental to the team, the next question becomes whether the NFL will take action against him under the personal conduct policy.  The broader question is whether the Dolphins knew or should have known about the misconduct directed to Martin, and what if anything the team can now do to clean up this mess.

Separately but perhaps even more importantly is the question of whether anyone will try to conceal the truth from the league as the investigation occurs.  As we’ve seen many prior times in many other settings, the cover up is worse than the crime.  Persons whose jobs currently aren’t in the balance could quickly find themselves unemployed if they do anything other than tell the truth and allow the truth to be discovered by those looking for it.

27 responses to “NFL trains players on being a good teammate

  1. For the stereotype of being a tough, badass NFL player.. not everyone is built the same. Takes more strength to say something, than not say anything at all. #props

  2. Obviously, the rookie symposium is a large waste of time. They sit through a “how to be a good teammate” course and immediately enter the Miami locker room where they’re expected to fork over thousands of dollars to the veteran players MULTIPLE times, extending past their rookie year and into their second?

    And how does that go down without the coaches and everybody else knowing about it? Also, no matter how big a jerk Incognito is, if he was the only one making those demands, then guys would have just ignored him. It had to be an accepted practice backed by quite a few veterans.

  3. Hey Jeff Ireland, do you have that resume all polished and printed up yet? It’s time, buddy! And don’t let that toner cartridge hit you in the butt on the way out the door, because I’ll be aiming for you!


    Dolphins fans

  4. I can’t imagine a good coach having this type of environment in the locker room. Good coaches would have nipped it in the bud long before it develops into a significant problem like this. I’m sorry to say, but I think Philbin’s demeanor is too aloof to control an NFL locker room.

  5. I am all for standing up for yourself, but this isn’t the first story that has come out where Richie Incognito appears to be a horses ass. Let’s say Martin got confrontational with Richie and ended up getting his butt whooped, then what? That’d make the bullying that Martin would have to endure way worse. Just remove the bad apples so everyone can go about their business.

  6. There is a line between bullying and some rookie hazing, and this seemed to cross the line. Although I’d like to hear the tone of his message before labeling Incognito anything, but sounds to me like this guy went over board and Martin was right in reporting. I still think a lot of this goes on in NFL lockerrooms and it’s ok as long as it doesn’t get out of control like this instance did

  7. In Florida…. only guys named george can bully/assault/kill people named Martin and get away with it.

  8. I think whats being missed here is that these situations usually don’t get to this level because teammates police the locker room together.

    Either the Martin’s teammates participated in the bullying or they were too scared to interfere with Incognito for fear of redirecting his harassment on them.

    It’s pretty obvious now why the Dolphins have had chemistry issues on the Offensive Line this year.

  9. He did the right thing. Punching him in the face? This is NOT high school. This is a professional league with real-world consequences like lawsuits and firings and people’s livelihoods on the line. You go through the proper channels, that’s what they’re there for. Buying dinner or bowling night or whatever is one thing. Some of the players like Mike Golic don’t see a problem with that. Maybe newer players will feel differently, I don’t know. But this is not hazing, this is on another level, and former players like Tom Jackson and Cris Carter are on Martin’s side. That should tell you something.

  10. @epmckenna

    I don’t think the coaching staff can be blamed for things that happen outside of the locker room (voicemail, text messages, trips). Maybe what they observed in the locker room was completely fine while Incognito actually harassed players more privately. The coaches probably had no idea because they made Incognito one of the team captains.

    Still, it is the coaches job to instill a culture so that these things don’t happen outside of the locker room. Combined with the fact that Incognito is obviously a bad apple, adds up to the situation at hand.

    One more thing, the Bill Parcels trio brought Incognito to the team. When Philbin arrived Incognito was a Pro Bowl sub that Ireland probably still wanted to keep.

  11. I think they also discuss drinking and driving as well as being smart with your money at these rookie symopossums.

  12. … “whether anyone will try to conceal the truth from the league” …

    Actually, the real question is whether the league will conceal the truth from the world.

  13. Antonio Smith handled richie incognito.

    incognito stopped, cried to the refs, and did nothing.

    incognito only bullies people who are quiet and/or don’t fight back.

    incognito has no balls.

  14. For once, Ditka was right. Should have smashed him in the weight room. Martin could have injured him, had it broken up, then went public to the Dolphins about the threats to his family.

  15. nfl is on CYA mode. Imagine what other illegal things go on that does not come to light either because it’s kept under the rug by the nfl /nflpa or a combination to protect the league’s image or lackthere of.

  16. The NFL is showing its ugly belly and if it wasn’t for the fans of fantasy football they would have more seats covered with tarps.

  17. Hazing is for children in junior and high school. It shouldn’t even BE at the college level. As professionals in the NFL, it’s just sad that a bunch of grown men act like children. Talk about trying to make up for what you lack elsewhere…..

    When you are getting paid money by the team and by extension the fans, every act on the field, in the locker room, etc… should be focused on improving the team. Somebody please tell me how hazing improves player skills? Output? Wins/championships?

    I know the good ol boy network will scream that it improves team unity( in some unfathomable way that abusing somebody makes them a better teammate), but I think you’re there to play professionally NOT make friends and it’s the COACHES job to improve players not other players jobs. If you can’t do your job in a team setting without hazing, you don’t deserve to be there.

    Just a quick question for the readers out there:
    In order to foster team unity in the workplace, would you encourage your aldult children to haze new workers or would you assume new workers are adults and don’t need assistance/motivation to do their jobs?

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