There is something truly poetic about this time of year. My heart has been on a roller coaster these last few weeks but I do my most creative thinking and writing when I’m tested emotionally. I am used to physical and emotional trials in both love and life and I always find a way to overcome adversity in both. I have a big heart. My mother created it and I use it to the best of my ability each day. I will not walk past someone in need and I am here for a good reason. It pains me that I have to write about bullying in a sport played by warriors this week but I feel it’s important that I cover this story as I feel obliged to protect the sport I love. As I start my Monday morning I look out of my window and see that the autumn leaves have fallen heavily to the ground outside the homes in my street here in this beautiful South Wales valley. I’m happy because I do my best thinking whilst raking leaves for myself and the people in need around me. I have a few elderly neighbours that rely on me to rake their paths and the few cups of Earl Gray tea and my daily bowl of welsh ‘cawl’ / soup from my neighbours help me get into that creative zone I need to get to as I get to do my good deeds for the day. It is truly soul strengthening to hug them after my work is done, knowing I have genuinely helped them and made them feel good in some way.
Let’s start on a lighter note
I loved this picture of a baby dressed as Kansas City Chiefs Head coach Andy Reid last week. LOL !!.
Before we head into week 10 of the regular season, Let’s wrap our arms around week 9 and say goodbye to it. For me, in week 9, It has never been more apparent that teams that know how to win just figure out a way to get it done, While the teams who are in the midst of a losing season figure out how to snag defeat out of the jaws of victory. Seattle had their hands full with the win-less Tampa Bay Buccaneers, They trailed 21 -0, Then came back and won the game in over time 24-21. Indianapolis trailed at Houston by 18 but Andrew Luck and company dug deep in the second half and figured out a way to win with wide receiver TY Hilton running great routes and making some great plays in the clutch. Dallas refered to last weeks trip and beats Minnesota at the end with Tony Romo stepping up in the clutch also.
The undefeated Kansas City Chiefs almost trailed at Buffalo by 14 but instead Shaun Smith ran a hundred yards with an interception touchdown and the ball game turned right around there and then and the Chiefs move on to a perfect 9 -0 record. I’ve spoken before of the emotional edge that the Kansas City locker room has with some of the individual story lines out of there. The defence is playing agile, hostile, volatile and physical under coordinator Bob Sutton and quarterback Alex Smith is as steady as he’s ever been as the general. Add in a running attack led by Jammal Charles and the road grading offensive line and then add in that incredible record setting / decibel level breaking crowd noise which gives an overwhelming home field advantage at Arrow head stadium. They have a formula that is very tough to beat and it’s a style I find the hardest for a team to travel to in the playoffs. The Denver Broncos and Payton Manning will have to bring their A game next week as the Chiefs start their two game division rivalry at Mile high in Denver and then to Arrow head a few weeks later. I can’t wait for these match ups !!
When scouting Richie Incognito back in 2004 /05 at Nebraska and Oregon I was intrigued to say the least. As I looked into his background I had never known a character like him. Not many people know that the name Incognito comes from a mistake made at Ellis island in New York as his grandfather came through there with millions of other Italians but didn’t speak a word of English. As he was processed by the English speaking officials that give the Italian immigrants their passes at Ellis Island, he said he did not want to keep his family name, I personally think because he had no idea what he was being asked and just wanted to get into America. In any case, the official bestowed him with the name “Incognito “.
Richie’s father was a tough, hard nosed, Vietnam veteran. He kept Richie in line and well disciplined. Richie’s father is proud of his “hard-nosed, working-class” upbringing in Union City, New Jersey., where kids were raised to “keep clean and steer clear of trouble.” He’s a self-described Norman Rockwell fanatic. He moved his young family to Bogota, New Jersey, where Seth Bendian, who is a baseball instructor, noticed young Richie’s competitive streak. Bendian had a massive part of Richie’s up bringing also.
For you to truly know who Richie Incognito is I feel I have to take you back to his childhood. Richie was a chubby boy with a cherubic face. He was an easy target for the cruel kids. One schoolmate, who was small for his age, tormented Incognito relentlessly, calling him fat and stupid. Incognito’s father told his son to retaliate and teach the bully a lesson.
“Richie was a nice, quiet kid and he resisted because he didn’t really have it in him to fight this punk,” recalled Seth Bendian, who coached both 10-year-olds in baseball. “When Richie finally snapped, he beat the kid up pretty good, but he found it very upsetting, and he ran home crying.”
In the ensuing years, Incognito grew into his enormous frame, converted fat to muscle and became a star football player whom no one dared tease. But during the transformation, Incognito went from bullied to bully, and his trip-wire temper led to fistfights, the label of “Dirtiest Player” in the NFL and ugly endings with his college and pro teams.
The cycle seems to have repeated itself in Miami, where Incognito had temporarily turned around his career and found peace through therapy, medication and the support of loyal Dolphins team mates.
It is a story that unfortunately transcends an individual, team or locker room or even just football as a whole. Harassment and hatred in the workplace is the theme in this story. Incognito was last week suspended indefinitely by the team after representatives of team mate Jonathan Martin made a formal complaint alleging player misconduct. It turns out that the Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin did not attend two days of the Dolphins organized team activities in April. The team knew he wasn’t there and they were unsure for the reasons of his unhappiness at the time but they did know that about the same time Dolphins guard Richie Incognito left a voice mail on Jonathan Martin’s phone that reads the following….
Incognito’s voice mail to Martin
. ” HEY, WASSUP. YOU HALF N*GG** PIECE OF SH**. I SAW YOU ON TWITTER, YOU BEEN TRAINING TEN WEEKS, I WANT TO PI** IN YOUR FU***NG MOUTH….. I’M GONNA SLAP YOUR FU***NG MOUTH, I’M GONNA SLAP YOUR REAL MOTHER ACROSS THE FACE…. FU** YOU, YOUR STILL A ROOKIE, I’LL KILL YOU…. “
Bullying and racism victim – Miami Dolphin – Jonathan Martin
Richie Incognito also made Martin pay $1500 towards a Las Vegas trip for the veterans. Martin wasn’t even invited on the trip. He would be singled out by Incognito who had other players move tables whilst Martin would join them to eat in the canteen. He was a terrible racist bully who should have had his butt kicked in my opinion. Especially when he brought his mother into it.
The NFL is in possession of that voice mail as is the Miami Dolphins organisation and once they heard it they made the decision to cut Incognito and remove all of his jerseys from all websites and shopping outlets worldwide.
Miami Dolphins Head coach Joe Pjilbin continued Saturday to avoid directly addressing questions about the events that led to the suspension of starting offensive guard, Incognito.When asked about the incident last May wherein Incognito allegedly harassed a woman at a charity golf tournament, Philbin said the team took “immediate action,” but didn’t say what that action was.
“We were made of aware of the situation, we took immediate action,” Philbin said. “Any club action we took against any player would remain private.”
The Dolphins coach declined to comment when asked by a reporter why Incognito was kept in a leadership role after the incident.The harassment incident was just the latest news to spiral out of the Incognito- Jonathan Martin situation. Philbin said he believes Martin could have come to him if he felt uncomfortable in the locker room.
“I believe I’m approachable to the players,” Philbin said.
Philbin also reiterated that the team is working with the NFL on its investigation.
“We’re all committed to getting to the bottom of this,” he said.
I remember whilst scouting him that many coaches and GM’s had labelled him as undraftable due to his character issues. He has been in fights both on and off the field all through his career. Bill Callahan was his head coach at Nebraska and he is an offensive line specialist. He likes his offensive line men to have a nasty streak but the way Incognito loses control has wrecked his career all the way. He is a great player technically but his thug like attitude has cost him his career as far as I can see. He was drafted 81st overall by the Rams and spent five tumultuous seasons in St. Louis before head coach Steve Spagnuolo cut him after Incognito was flagged for two head-butting penalties in a late-season loss. As a Ram, he committed 38 penalties, including seven for unnecessary roughness; was voted Dirtiest Player in the league in a Sporting News poll of his peers; He mocked booing Rams fans and argued with Spagnuolo on the sideline in plain sight of everyone. When he was penalized twice for fighting and almost cost the Rams a game in 2008, coach Jim Haslett was recorded on the sideline saying, “What is wrong with this motherf—–?”. He is a complete crackpot in my opinion. If he had a better head he coud have been a top 20 draft pick as he is technically sound in both the run game and in pass protection. He is intelligent enough to read the calls and drop into centre and identify the mike linebacker also. He’s just a lunatic though !
Incognito told NFL.com last summer that he had been a pot-smoking, heavy-drinking, party-hardy player in St. Louis but realized he could not blow his last chance with Miami. He saw a therapist who prescribed Paxil, an anti-anxiety drug that Incognito described as “a life-changer, a game-changer.” He listened to Ricky Williams’ recommendations and practiced meditation. He spent contemplative time on the beach outside his Fort Lauderdale apartment.
“I’m definitely not healed, and I’m not saying I don’t make mistakes,” he told NFL.com. “But from where I was to where I am now, I mean, it’s night and day. And it’s something that, you know, I hope people can respect about me.”
Hindsight is totally my favourite way to see things. Everything is much more clear. Like if you’re a former NFL executive or NFL coach, now would be a good time to point out that you wouldn’t have drafted Richie Incognito.
Over the past 24 hours, former Colts / Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy and former Patriots / Chiefs executive Scott Pioli did just that. ‘SURPRISE, SURPRISE’ ( Hint of sarcasm )
“I didn’t want him coming out of college, and I don’t want him now,” former NFL General Manager Scott Pioli said on NBC Monday night as I watched here in Tredegar, Wales.
Pioli beat on Incognito pretty hard in the show, noting that if Incognito’s a leader in your locker room then your locker room has a leadership problem. That’s certainly a fair stance. I had thought that myself. He should have never been given that role but the Dolphins should have never let the offensive line leader Jake Long go. That caused this. Unless he had a problem with Incognito also. That would explain a bit to be honest.
When Incognito was drafted in 2005, Pioli was with the Patriots. They’ve been known to take a gamble or two on s a few players lacking in perfect personal history. The fact that he would have such a strong opinion of Incognito tells you something I think.
The Colts felt the same way apparently. Head coach Tony Dungy said on The Dan Patrick show that Incognito was placed on Indianapolis’s “DNDC” list. What does that stand for??…….”Do not draft because of character.”
Dungy added that rookie hazing isn’t something that has to happen but rather something that’s allowed to happen.
“It doesn’t happen everywhere,” Dungy said. “It happens where you allow it to happen.”
I think it happens on every team now. Veterans can find so much out by hazing a rookie. Tie him to a goalpost, Make him carry your bags. Anything to prove character. Heck, I was Hazed in my rookie year with The South Wales Warriors. I did get into a fight but that happens also. at least you know what your getting then.
Former Colts General Manager Bill Polian echoed similar sentiments on SportsCenter Monday. Polian said Indianapolis had “a very strong anti-hazing and anti-bullying policy” when he and Dungy ran the team and that the policy was “enforced” by leaders in the locker room.
This is something the Dolphins clearly don’t have. It’s always easier to criticize in hindsight, but it’s quite clear something went seriously amiss while Miami was building their locker-room culture. In hard knocks I saw clearly that Jake Locker was the leader of that offensive line and it’s clear that his departure to St Louis was a big loss to that Locker room.
I do really hold Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin in high regard and it took guts to trade Vonta Davis to the Colts after his pro bowl caliber play. I loved the way he dealt with the Chad Johnson domestic abuse situation also by cutting him immediately after the incident. I respect his no nonsense method and he’s continued that here with this situation. My question now is, Can offensive line coach Jim Turner get one of the back ups ready to fill the spots vacated by Martin and Incognito ??,
They have a solid veteran in Bryant ‘mount’ McKinney who struggled earlier in the year but maybe a return to his college city of Miami could raise his game. I like both Danny Watkins and Dallas Thomas as potential replacements for Incognito long term but I see Nate Garner getting the nod based on system experience with John Jerry in the other guard position right now. Both rookie Dallas Thomas and 2nd year guy David Arkin can play guard or Tackle. Veteran Tyson Clabo and talented centre Mike Pouncey have to play to their potential. They are pro bowl level players. The plaster will be put on the offensive line starting Monday night against Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Florida derby. It should be interesting to watch. Racism makes me sick as does bullying. I love this quote above by Martin Luther King..
Former star of tv show ‘The contender ‘ ,boxing champion and personal friend, Steve Forbes recently spoke to me on facebook about a situation he witnessed where a 60+ year old man held down a much bigger 20 something year old man in a submission hold as he waited for police to arrive at a scene after the 20 something year old man punched his girlfriend several times in the street. I love hearing acts of courage like that and I think it’s pure cowardice for anyone to ignore or walk past a racism or bullying situation so it makes me wonder how a locker room full of gladiators could let this go under their nose. It’s hard to know from the outside what goes on with these teams but we have our sources here at sport city and I know not turning up to the organised team activities is a way to get on the bad side of your team mates but punishing and bullying are two different things completely. There is no room for bullying in this world. People kill themselves over it daily. If your reading this and know of a case of bullying or racism or even suspect that a school friend or work colleague is being bullied then I beg you to step up and speak to someone about it. You are a coward if you don’t !!
Thanks for reading my latest column….