Richie Incognito finally got the message.  He was losing his case where it has the greatest impact, in the court of public opinion.

The Miami Dolphins offensive lineman, not officially an ex Dolphin yet, but soon to be one, was still full of bluster following the release of the NFL investigation conducted by Ted Wells into the culture in the Dolphins locker room that may, or may not, have contributed to the bullying of offensive lineman Jonathan Martin by Incognito and, according to the report, two other players.  The Wells report was fairly graphic in detailing the treatment of Martin, which included racial slurs and sexual innuendos aimed at his mother and his sister.

Incognito’s initial reaction to the report was to say his side of the story had yet to come out and it would shed a different light on the subject.  He’s since had a chance to listen to legal advice and rethink his position.  Yesterday he offered apologies to Martin and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for his actions and to Wells for his initial reaction to the results of his investigation.  Incognito offered his apologies to martin through a twitter that closed with, “Until someone tells me different you are still my brother.  No hard feelings.”

It would be difficult to believe there would be no hard feelings on Martin’s part.  It’s not an easy thing to endure bullying, particularly in the environment that exists in the National Football League.  The existence of such an environment was on full public display after Martin left the team and disclosed his reasons for doing so.  Most Dolphins’ players said they had no problem with Incognito and they felt he was a good teammate and a team leader.

Richie Incognito, at this stage of his career, is a better player than Martin, who even Dolphins’ coaches, while they feel he has NFL ability, feel needs to develop a more aggressive attitude toward the game.  Richie Incognito is likely to find NFL employment for next season before Jonathan Martin does.  In the NFL mindset Martin has more issues to deal with before he can return to the game than does Incognito.

The players’ response to the charges against Incognito should resonate with most of us.  It’s hard to imagine anyone growing up without, at one time or another, being the target of a bully, so we’ve all seen first hand how it works.  The actions of bullies are fueled by enablers, those who passively condone those actions when someone among them has been targeted.  Some enablers join in, adding their own taunts to those of the bully, but most enable by standing quietly by, staying out of it, lest they become the target of the bully themselves.  The reaction of the majority of Incognito’s teammates, that they have no problem with him, is because they were never his targets and they were just as happy to keep it that way, let him target the weak among them and leave the rest of them alone.

Richie Incognito resonates with the average NFL player more than Jonathan Martin and, while he’s likely to have some ground rules explained to him before any contracts are signed, he’ll probably be in a new training camp by this summer, where he’ll be accepted by the players as a teammate who has their backs on the field and enhances their chances of earning some playoff dollars at the end of the season.

While it may take a while for it to set in with Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito’s apology has already been pretty much accepted by the rest of the NFL, and once he’s officially a former Miami Dolphin he can go back to work.  That’s just the way it is.

With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.


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