Jonathan Martin has no problem with rookie hazing. No issue with haircuts. He's been in a locker room, talked with others inside and outside the Dolphins organization and attempted to build camaraderie with teammates to dissipate a toxic situation.
None of it worked. So he walked away.
That's just one of the many things Martin said in his exclusive interview with former Super Bowl-winning head coach Tony Dungy, which aired Wednesday evening, Jan. 29, in a special edition of Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports Network.
It is the first time Martin has spoken extensively since abruptly leaving the Dolphins in October. The time since has been one of reflection on locker-room culture, vilification of guard Richie Incognito and near-radio silence from Martin, whose camp has been almost entirely silent during this process. Statements were mostly filtered through David Cornwell, the attorney the Martin family hired to handle proceedings as the NFL looked into the hazing allegations.
Almost exactly three months since he walked away, though, Martin is ready to talk. His words to Dungy were all at once shocking and stuff we've mostly heard previously, either through leaked reports or similarly worded sentiments from within the Martin camp.
What did he have to say? Here is a quick overview of some of the highlights from Wednesday's interview.
This Was Not "Typical" Rookie Hazing
OK, so we already knew that. Through leaked voicemails and text messages, Incognito's words were plastered across media for weeks at the height of the controversy. These were not the typical, tongue-in-cheek forms of rookie hazing. The harassment was sexual, vulgar and at times racial, crossing all kinds of civil boundaries—inside the locker room and out.
In particular, Martin seemed bothered by the inclusion of his family in the vitriol. He highlighted sexual innuendos thrown his way about his mother and sister, citing them as among the things that bothered him most.
Still, it wasn't just one thing. Martin seemed strident in the fact that he could handle one or two off-color comments. It was the non-stop, crippling persistence of the culture that caused him to walk away.
"I'm a grown man. I've been in locker rooms," Martin said, per ESPN's James Walker. "One incident doesn't bother me. It was the persistence. I felt trapped, like I didn't have a way to make it right. I thought it was best to remove myself from the situation."
"I have no problem with the normal hazing that you see in the NFL, get a haircut, stuff like that, little pranks," Martin continued. "But of a personal, attacking nature, I don't think there's any place for that."
Nothing was particularly illuminating about this segment, except it was interesting to hear the words come out of Martin's mouth. He maintained a collected tone throughout, as if he were either well-coached by his representation or simply a pretty collected person altogether.
Richie Incognito Wasn't the Only Culprit
Incognito, understandably, became the villain in this situation. He was cited as the ring leader of the hazing. The guy who drove Martin out of the locker room, the poster child for petulance and, for lack of better term, the proverbial meathead in football culture.
Given the chance, Martin did not go out of his way to excoriate Incognito on the national stage. Rather, he seemed to indicate Incognito's actions were more endemic of the culture fostered in Miami. There were other teammates who harassed him, other teammates who were harassed and a situation where toxic behavior became something of the norm.
“I worked hard to be friends with Richie Incognito and others,” Martin said, per Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post. “I thought it was important to build these friendships with your teammates. So I turned the microscope back on myself and said ‘what am I doing wrong to be treated like this?’”
Martin declined to name any of the "others." In places where a teammate's name could have come out, Martin would instead use "they" or some other pronoun rather than expose any secondary figure.
Speaking specifically about Incognito, Martin declined his insinuation that the two men were friends. Martin instead used variations of "tried," multiple times, highlighting his instances of the exchanged text messages between the two as attempts to ingratiate himself within the team leadership. Dungy pressed that line of questioning perhaps the hardest, leading to an awkward laugh where Martin reiterated his point one more time.
In so many words: Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito were far from friends in Martin's eyes.
Martin Never Approached Joe Philbin About the Bullying in the Locker Room
This was probably the biggest revelation in an interview that at times felt repetitive. Dungy, one of the best players coaches in the history of the NFL, asked Martin whether he approached any coaches to discuss the internal culture. Dungy noted that in one of his locker rooms, he would want players to approach him if such a situation were going on.
Martin indicated that he did speak with position coaches, but the conversations never went anywhere. A young lineman, Martin was too afraid to go into specifics and had no interest in alienating teammates (at least at the time) by outing their actions.
“I didn’t think it was my place to go above the heads of leaders on the offensive line or talk to my coaches about my teammates,” per Abramson.
When asked specifically about whether he approached head coach Joe Philbin, Martin said he hadn't. In some ways, that acquits Philbin from some of the responsibility. In others, it highlights him as perhaps not being quite as in touch with his locker room and players as one would like.
When asked why he wouldn't approach Philbin, Martin said it was about "the level of comfort" he felt around the coach. Or, more specifically, the lack thereof.
Philbin and Martin: probably not sending one another Christmas cards.
Still, Martin's admission that he hadn't really pressed the issue with any of the organization opens up many more issues. Who knew and when? Did anyone who caught wind that something was amiss try to intervene?
And, frankly, would the situation have been put to bed had Martin merely gone to Philbin instead of letting his emotions boil over a nearly two-year period? None of those questions was or could be answered.
Martin was also coy in discussing what he did after leaving the team. He declined to confirm or deny reports that he checked into a mental hospital, saying, "That's not what's important," per Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Jonathan Martin Wants to Keep Playing Football Really Bad
This was the $64,000 question coming in. After all he's endured and after so publicly walking away from the game, there were some who wondered aloud whether Martin would ever play football again. Or, more suspiciously, whether he even loved the game to begin with.
The 24-year-old put that question to bed entirely. He wants to play football again. He wants to do so next season. He's hopeful that an NFL team will look past his ugly exit in Miami and give him a chance to prove he can fit in with a typical locker-room culture.
But even Martin knows nothing is guaranteed.
"I understand opportunities in the NFL are fleeting," Martin said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. "I'm hopeful that I get another opportunity and I'm going to make the most of it because this is what I love to do. I don't know what I would do if I wasn't playing football."
Will Jonathan Martin ever play in the NFL again?
Whether Martin gets that chance remains to be seen. This is a situation, while not unprecedented inside NFL locker rooms, that has taken a life of its own because of the media coverage involved. Martin and Incognito are now the faces of locker-room bullying—for better or for worse.
We know almost for certain Martin won't be back in Miami. Dolphins players have made it clear behind the scenes they do not wish him to return, and owner Stephen Ross was frank when asked whether he could envision either of the two linemen back.
"I don't believe so," Ross said, via James Walker of ESPN. "Well, I can't say that. Therefore, I retract that. One is a free agent, by the way; the other is on our roster."
Ross tried to backtrack, but the message was obvious. Martin will never wear a Dolphins uniform again.
As for any other NFL uniform, only time can tell. Martin wants to play football. Everything about this interview, in Martin's eyes, was geared toward an NFL return. Just not one that is anything like Miami. Per Kelly, Martin thinks he'll fit right in if given another situation:
"I hope the culture I experienced isn't typical of NFL locker rooms. I talked to other players & I know I'd fit into any NFL locker room."— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) January 29, 2014
Others around the league might think differently. There are some players who will view Martin as a so-called snitch no matter where he winds up. But at such a young age and with a second-round pedigree, Martin could also be seen as a reclamation project around the league. Build his confidence back up and suddenly a team has a star.
Jonathan Martin may have broken his silence, but his story is far from over.
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