FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Although new details in the Miami Dolphins' saga involving Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito seem to surface hourly, the terms bullying and hazing have become topics of conversation in every NFL locker room this week.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith had no comment on the fallout in Miami, but Smith did speak in general terms about how players should conduct themselves and how coaches should monitor certain situations.
"I think the more important thing is that everyone understands that there is a respect factor on a football team and you have to respect everyone, not only on the team and in the locker room, but throughout the building,’’ Smith said. "In terms of the locker room, players and coaches are both responsible. It’s a team. The team is very important. The dynamics of a football team are very different every year. They are different every day in an NFL locker room."
Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters, in his fourth season, said hazing and bullying haven't been a problem since he joined the Falcons.
"I think every locker room is different,’’ Peters said. "I can’t speak about that [Miami] situation specifically because I don’t know any details. But here in Atlanta, we have a lot of good guys. And there are incidents of playful-hazing stuff. But I guess it depends on your background, what you determine to be excessive or not. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that I would consider to be even remotely excessive since I’ve been here. I paid for a rookie meal when I was a rookie, and that’s about it. It wasn’t a lot. Just a couple thousand. It wasn’t bad at all, really, considering some of the stories I’ve heard from other places.’’
Peters was asked if the coaches or players should be responsible for monitoring such behavior.
"I think in this setting, it should be fine: We’re all men in here,’’ Peters said. "And if you’re uncomfortable with something, then I think you should stand up and say, 'Hey, I’m uncomfortable with this.' And if it continues beyond that point, other actions need to be taken. But here, we have a great group of guys. And I think if someone says 'Hey, I don’t want to do that,' that’s the end of it. I’m sure if I didn’t want to pay for that meal, I could have gotten out of it. But it is what it is.’’
Rookie tight end Levine Toilolo played with Martin at Stanford.
"I think it's unfortunate but at the same time, I don't really know the whole story or the whole situation,'' Toilolo said. "In college, he was a good guy. He was a year above me. He was one of the top players and one of the leaders on our team. I consider him a friend of mine. It's unfortunate to have that situation going on.''