By Mark Schlereth | ESPNhttp://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/10458 ... cker-rooms
Among the many things that I loved about playing football was sitting around the locker room with teammates and poking fun at each other with sophomoric slams, each one more ridiculous than the next.
But let me make this perfectly clear: I despise the stories of bullying that came out of Miami.
It breaks my heart that the good-natured ribbing that is a part of every locker room could get to a point that a young man felt his only option was to walk away from the game that he's worked his entire life to play.
I have great empathy for Jonathan Martin. I don't know all the inner workings of the Miami Dolphins locker room, but I do know the pain of being different, the sadness that accompanies not fitting in and the hopeless feeling of having no one to turn to, because it's part of my story as well. ...
I've heard a lot of current and former football players evoke "the code" in regard to Martin's departure from his team.
• Handle your business like a man
• Don't air the team's dirty laundry to the public
• Stand up for yourself
• Punch him in the nose
• Don't run out on your teammates
Many have said Martin has broken "the code" and will never be welcomed back in the locker room. What about "the code" that says we love one another? We play hard for one another? We set aside our differences and bond together as one?
What about that fraternity, that code?
The code of championship locker rooms, in which men sacrifice for each other, in which they consider others more important than themselves, in which they embrace -- not ostracize -- each other. That's the locker room I grew up in and the code I adhere to, and my football career is filled with examples of reaching out, and looking out, for teammates. ...
Joe Gibbs was the head coach, and he set the culture of our locker room from the very first meeting of the year. As a rookie, I had a vision of what my first NFL meeting would be like. I was expecting fire and brimstone, some real Football 101, but what I got was the truth from a quiet, regal man.
"Welcome to the 1989 season, men," he said. "Today I'd like to give you some priorities for your life ...
1. Your relationship with God.
2. Your relationship with your family and teammates.
3. Being the best football player you can be.
"I guarantee you, if the first two priorities are not in line, you can't be your best on the field," Gibbs said. "Let's make it a great year. Break out with your position coaches."
That was it, and the tone was set.
Professional sports are filled with unwritten rules of behavior, and that is fine, but there are lines that shouldn't get crossed in following those rules. If they do get crossed, well, there should be enough men with character and integrity to stand up and put an end to it.
This is what bothers me the most about the Miami Dolphins. Where were the men of character? Where were the men of integrity who would intercede on behalf of a hurting teammate, a member of the family? ...
I was taught to stand up for my team. I was taught "the code" -- the championship code.
But, in light of the Incognito/Martin story, people would have you believe that you have to be some raving lunatic to play in the NFL, wound so tightly that the slightest spark will insight an insatiable inferno. Nothing could be farther from the truth. ...
I'm left with this conclusion about the Dolphins organization from the coaching staff on down:
They were either complicit, incompetent or, worse, both.
Too bad he is not a good coach that would be willing to coach in Miami.