A Former NFL Front Office Executive's Take on the Wells Report

Greg GabrielFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

Fotografía de archivo del 24 de julio de 2013 muestra al guard Richie Incognito (68) y al tackle Jonathan Martin (71), de los Dolphins de Miami, en el campo durante una práctica en Davie, Florida. (Foto AP/Lynne Sladky, archivo)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

When the Wells Report came out on Friday, I was reluctant to read it. I tweeted that I don't need to read the report because I played football for over 20 years and have been in NFL locker rooms for another 30 years. I had first-hand knowledge of what goes on.

I knew how there was always a strong personality who controlled the room and was the "Big Dog" among his teammates. I knew how players "harassed" each other, sometimes in vulgar ways. 

But in all honesty, everything was in relatively good nature. Rookies were rookies, and until they earned the respect of veterans, they weren't accepted as part of the team. Yes, they were teased and had to do things like carry the vets' pads from the practice field or sing their schools' fight songs in the cafeteria.

Everything I was a part of as a player (not in the NFL) or witnessed was more fun than anything else and players took it that way. I would be naive to say there weren't times when players got upset and "fought back," but still nothing got out of hand and no one got to upset over things.

Sometimes the "rookie harassment" gets taken to the field during drills but can backfire. One day at practice there was a pass rush/pass protection drill between linebackers and running backs. This was at the beginning of camp, and we had a hot-shot rookie linebacker. He was going against a long-time veteran back who was also very popular with his teammates.

The running back probably thought that because he was going against a rookie it was going to be an easy rep...he found out differently. As the back set his feet to block the on-charging linebacker, the linebacker suddenly jumped right over the crouched back to get an easy "sack."

The vet was embarrassed, to say the least, and went up to the rookie and said, "Rookie, don't ever do that to me again." The rookie pushed him back and said, "Screw you...block me."

From that moment on the rookie was never "harassed" again because he had earned his spurs so to speak. This is the way it is in pro sports, especially football.

When I read the Wells Report on Friday, I was shocked and angered, to say the least. I almost can't describe the different emotions that I was experiencing. As much as I have been around and as much as I have seen, I never saw anything like this. Jonathan Martin went though a horrible rookie harassment period that not only carried over to his second year, it got worse! The harassment and abuse he had to put up with may have destroyed his career and did hurt his team.


Martin as a Prospect

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

I had already left the Chicago Bears when Martin was coming out, but I did evaluate him for another website. What I recall was a very solid offensive lineman who was best as a pass-blocker and more than adequate as a run-blocker.

While some saw him as a potential first-round pick, I didn't see that, but I saw a good second- or third-round type. Like most college linemen, he needed to get stronger and improve his technique. He was not an elite athlete but was good enough. I never saw a lack of toughness or competitiveness in his play.


Martin's time in Miami

Reading the Wells report, I kept thinking that Martin's teammates were destroying him instead of helping him become a better player. The offensive line as a group is different than any other position group on a football team. It is very important that the linemen act together in unison, so to speak, so that the offense will click.

On most teams, the O-line is very close and does a lot of things together. It's part of their bonding process and helps them play together as a unit. For the offensive line to work well, they have to almost act as one, not as individuals.

What I  read in the Wells Report was the opposite. It was a group led by a social misfit who led through terror and was backed up by two other social misfits who were along for the ride. They weren't teammates—they were antagonists. 

It's no wonder the Dolphins aren't a winning team; they don't have any unity within. They aren't a team. There is no chance to win with that kind of atmosphere.

There is no place in pro football for people like Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey and John Jerry. They are not a part of a team; they are a detriment to a team. What they subjected a teammate to is unconscionable and disgusting. I believe that all should face severe fines and suspensions.

As bad as this situation is, I do believe that good can come out of it. The culture of the locker room has to change. Though I agree that there is a place for "rookie hazing" as long as it is good-natured and fun, there is no place for abuse, bullying and sexual harassment. Coaches and general managers can use this to look at the practices within their own teams and make change.

The locker room is sacred but it has to be controlled so that nothing like this ever happens again.


Martin's Future

As for Jonathan Martin, who knows what will happen. He is a very talented player and deserves a chance to play in the National Football League.

Some have said that he isn't tough enough and that by having his situation go public, he won't be accepted in another locker room. I don't buy that. If there are players out there who won't accept Jonathan Marin, then they don't deserve to play, because they are as Neanderthal as Incognito, Jerry and Pouncey.

Jon Martin may be sensitive, but he is a good football player, a quality person and a good teammate. He can help a team win and deserves to work at his craft without being subject to bullying and harassment. Here is hoping that he gets that opportunity soon.