HOUSTON -- On Monday, a day after Richie Incognito was suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the Dolphins, Texans defensive end Antonio Smith was asked if the allegations that Incognito bullied a teammate, threatened him and used a racial slur toward him surprised Smith.
"Definitely not," Smith replied.
"You are what you are."
Smith and Incognito have a long history. It goes even further beyond the two games in which the two have sparred in the past two seasons. They both played in the Big 12 in college with Smith at Oklahoma State and Incognito at Nebraska. In the NFL, the players who were drafted one year apart wound up in the same division, facing each other twice a year.
Of course, Smith ripped off Incognito's helmet this year during the Texans' preseason game in Miami and the ensuing swing, which didn't make any contact, led to a fine and suspension of two preseason games and one regular-season game for the defensive end. He didn't say much about it, except to say that Incognito punched him in the face and grabbed his facemask before that. It's the second time in two seasons the league has fined Smith for an incident involving Incognito.
Today Smith was asked again about Incognito, bullying and the racial nature of some of the allegations.
What was clear was that he doesn't think what's happening in Miami is a cultural problem with the NFL. He thinks hazing, when done with the right intentions, can be harmless. Rather, Smith thinks what's happening in Miami is an Incognito problem.
And while the Dolphins locker room seems to be rejecting the notion that Incognito used racial slurs hatefully, it doesn’t sound like Smith buys that. Smith's words:
"Hate is a big -- especially in this day and age -- it’s a big factor. If some of the allegations are true of things that he said or left voice messages. I don’t think that has any place anywhere. But other people believe differently.
"I don’t think in my opinion a grown man should get bullied. I think that if you realistically get bullied, there’s only one way my mom taught me and my dad taught me how to get rid of bullies as a child. I can’t say what to do in this day and age, but when I was a kid they always used to say, you hit a bully in the mouth, it’ll stop him from bullying. No matter what you hit him with."
On hazing in general:
"I don’t know what’s the particulars on it. I know that a lot of it is just football players doing what football players do. The rest of the world don’t understand, they think it’s outrageous and different things like that. In every walk of life you have your rite of passage and your traditions that you do. These are the traditions that have been passed down throughout the NFL for a long time. I think a lot of the things that (happen are) no problem, it’s just in the hands of a person that you have in charge of doing it. Like having weapons or firearms. The person who’s in charge of (the weapon) is the one you should fear, not the firearm itself.
"If you’re hazing somebody and you’re hazing them out of pure hate instead of love, then I don’t think that has a place in (football). I’ve never been around it so I couldn’t even comment on it. When we have our fun, we laugh we joke with each other, you know it’s all in love. If (allegations about Incognito are) true from what I’m hearing, from what everybody’s saying, that’s not out of love. You’re just outright stalking somebody or threatening to beat their you know what and all of that, that’s totally different. That’s not what we as football players in the NFL do for hazing or right of passage, for rookies in that league."
Does he feel vindicated?
"I don’t feel vindicated at all. That situation was what it was. I closed the chapter on that situation whether it was that situation or any other, you’re going to be the man that you are. He is the man that he is. That’s just the bottom line. It don’t reflect on me or anything, any of the situation."
On Incognito's use of a racial slur:
"When you’re generating that type of hate toward somebody, I don’t think that’s called for especially for somebody that’s supposed to be your teammate. You’re spending most of your time with these guys in the locker room, more time than you spend with your family. You grow to love a lot of your teammates as brothers as friends. Racial slurs, any kind of slurs or hate generating, I don’t think has any place in the locker room, a football locker room, a team, anywhere as a matter of fact. I don’t want to just bottle it into us. Make it all about football. It don’t have a place anywhere. But some people believe that way."