Marshall: Culture of NFL needs to change

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall views the situation taking place in Miami involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin as more evidence the culture of the NFL needs to change.

“You can’t show that you’re hurt. You can’t show any pain,” Marshall said of the NFL’s culture of machismo. “So for a guy that comes in the locker room and he shows a little vulnerability, that’s a problem. So that’s what I mean by the culture of the NFL, and that’s what we have to change.”

Martin recently checked into a South Florida hospital to be treated for emotional distress that led to him leaving the team last week, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who also reported the trip to the hospital was related to the offensive tackle’s belief that he had been targeted during a sustained level of harassment from teammates, including Incognito.

The Dolphins suspended Incognito on Sunday for conduct detrimental to the team after reps for Martin provided the team voicemail and text evidence of the alleged harassment.

Having played two seasons with Incognito on the Dolphins (2010 and 2011), Marshall expressed that “you have to be sensitive to the kid, Martin, and what he’s going through” because it’s “a serious situation.” But the receiver also said the NFL shouldn’t ban Incognito, and that hazing occurs “in every locker room.”

“Look at it from this standpoint. Take a little boy and a little girl. The little boy falls down, and the first thing we say as parents: ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK, don’t cry.’ When the girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s gonna be OK,’” Marshall explained. “We validate their feelings. So right there from that moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, don’t show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. So what’s going on in Miami, it goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking, maybe have some group sessions where guys sit down and talk about what’s going on off the field or what’s going on in the building and not mask everything because the [longer] it goes untreated, the worse it gets. Unfortunately you see this kid, Martin, he’s been harboring these feelings for the past two years and now he’s at a boiling point where he has to walk out. It’s a good thing that it didn’t escalate to something more serious. But it’s time for us to take a look at some things that we can do that are proactive and start with some group sessions or group therapy or other innovative things out there.”

An outspoken advocate for mental health awareness, Marshall also added some context to one of the significant allegations being reviewed in the Miami situation. Sources told ESPN that Incognito convinced Martin to contribute $15,000 to help pay for a trip to Las Vegas last summer for a group of teammates, despite the offensive tackle’s preference to not travel with the team. Martin paid the $15,000, fearing consequences if he did not hand over the money, sources told ESPN.

Marshall said that a trip to Las Vegas is a yearly tradition of Miami’s offensive linemen, one that existed before Incognito ever became a Dolphin.

“I would say this about Richie: I was there in Miami, and those guys have been doing that. The offensive linemen had been doing that before Richie got there. It’s a tradition down in Miami that the offensive linemen go to Vegas,” Marshall said. “I was actually invited to go to a trip, and the rookies, they were supposed to pick up a big piece of the cost. But the veterans would chip in. [Dolphins center Mike] Pouncey paid his part of it, and didn’t even get on the flight. He ended up meeting the guys out there. There are some things out there where that’s what I mean by [saying], ‘It’s in every locker room.’ That had been there before Richie was there, and I was around that. So I don’t think there were any ill feelings. It’s just a part of the tradition that was there.”

Marshall mentioned that he keeps in contact with Incognito and enjoyed playing with the guard during their days together in Miami. Marshall also discussed the racially charged text messages allegedly sent from Incognito to Martin.

In an NFL locker room, racist remarks cut both ways, he said.

“It was kind of disturbing to see some of the things that were said, but I also know that it’s not an isolated incident. It’s unfortunately the culture of the NFL," Marshall said. "We walk around saying the N-word as black players, and it’s not right. We get offended when the white player says it. That’s on him and where his heart’s at when he says it. It doesn’t make it right. But we can’t jump down a guy’s throat because he’s saying it and he’s white. The black guys are saying it, too; doesn’t make it right. People are capable of change. That’s something Richie has to deal with. I’m not condoning that. But people do things and say things that are hurtful. That’s something that Richie has to deal with.”