TEMPE, Ariz. — Darnell Dockett was not surprised.
Sure, the fact that an NFL player may have bullied a teammate came as a bit of a shock, but the fact that it is Richie Incognito who is accused of doing the deed seemed about right to the veteran defensive lineman.
“Everybody was talking about it, and I’m looking like, ‘Oh, are you surprised that he did that,'” Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said of the Richie Incognito situation in Miami. “And it’s crazy because a lot of guys on our team are like, ‘Nah, we’re not surprised at all. Let’s go on with our day.’
“Some guys are looking at making it a big thing…we’re like, ‘Are you surprised, look who did it?'”
Dockett and Incognito squared off regularly when the latter was with the St. Louis Rams from 2005 to 2009, and the Arizona Cardinal was never shy about voicing his opinion on his rival. The two battled in the trenches quite often, and it was obvious there was (and is) no love lost between the two.
But still, it’s one thing to get into it with an opponent, Dockett said, and something completely different to torment a teammate so badly that they leave the team, which the second-year pro Jonathan Martin did.
“That’s so classless to me,” Dockett said. “I feel bad for the young guy because I do feel like as a veteran, you’re supposed to help young guys develop. Help them develop to be a better player on and off the field. Not abuse them and send them text messages and call them the N-word and things like that.
“I don’t have any respect for the guy and I’m glad that the Dolphins are taking actions against him and not respecting that.”
For what it’s worth, Karlos Dansby, who was a teammate of Incognito’s for two years in Miami, said the offensive lineman was the type of guy who you’d want watching your back.
“I knew his reputation before because we played against him in St. Louis, we knew he had some dirty tactics,” Dansby said. “But getting down there playing with him, he’s the best teammate you could have.”
Dansby, who said the Dolphins needed leaders to step up and intervene, added that something had to have happened for the situation to reach this point.
Because generally speaking, an NFL locker room is a place where plenty of what is said is not ripe for public consumption; that’s just how the culture is.
Bullying, however, is not supposed to be a part of it.
“I don’t worry about it because I don’t see that happening here,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I don’t know all the facts, so I can’t really comment, but the little bit I’ve heard from our players, it was very uncalled for and should never happen.”
Of course, hazing — to some degree — happens, the extent of which varies from team to team. During training camp, Dockett himself was part of the Cardinals’ initiation, which involved giving the team’s rookies some rather unique haircuts.
Arians said that is about as far as he’d allow his veterans to go because, as he noted, 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,” he said.
“We don’t do the bully thing,” Dockett added. “It’s crazy with the veterans that we’ve got because we actually give our rookies a hard time, but we don’t call them out by name. We don’t do anything that we wouldn’t want done on us.”
Granted, how “bad” hazing may be is incredibly subjective, but Dockett said the goal is to have the team’s younger players look at the veterans like big brothers, who they can come to with questions and problems.
“We don’t want a young guy looking at us like we’re an enemy, he doesn’t like us or things like that,” he said. “That’s not how you build chemistry at all.”
Rookie running back Stepfan Taylor, who was a teammate of Martin’s at Stanford, said he never expected to hear his former teammate involved in a story like this.
“You hate to see that on the news and on the front page of Yahoo! and things like that,” the running back said. “You just pray for him and pray for the best situation.”
Taylor added that he thinks the best thing he can do is give his former teammate time and space to deal with the situation.
But hazing gone a bit too far or not, Martin, a second-year pro out of Stanford, finally had enough of Incognito’s abuse. Whether or not the younger player should have stood up to his tormenter is a matter of perspective and really not the point, because the real story is for some reason, one teammate decided he wanted to make another teammate’s life a living hell.
“You don’t hear about anything like that taking place,” Dansby said. “We’re like family, so why would we do something to hurt our family? I don’t understand that.”