The Miami Dolphins lost left tackle Jonathan Martin after an alleged bullying incident forced him to leave the team. Now, it looks like the team will be without left guard Richie Incognito after the team suspended him indefinitely for his role in the bullying.
The Dolphins’ offensive line wasn’t in great shape before losing the entire left side of their offensive line as they have allowed an NFL-high 35 sacks this season. Now, thanks to one of the strangest stories to ever come out of an NFL camp the Dolphins are being forced to patch together their struggling offensive line and there are huge questions surrounding the future of Martin and his alleged protagonist, Incognito.
Whatever set Martin off, and the details may never be fully known, was obviously bad enough to cause a 6-foot-5, 320-pound 24-year-old man to leave the team. It was also bad enough for the Dolphins to suspend Incognito and leave the Dolphins to answer questions regarding the incident as well as who can replace Martin and Incognito all while fans and media wonder if there is another shoe waiting to drop regarding the bullying allegedly going on behind closed doors.
The Dolphins will have to rely on Bryant McKinnie and Nate Garner to step up and anchor Ryan Tannehill’s blindside. There is also the chance that as evidence continues to come out that more suspensions could be coming. That, of course, is purely speculation, but it isn’t likely that only one person was responsible.
In the alpha-male dominated sport that is football there is very little sympathy for victims of bullying. The general consensus in a football locker room, like an infantry platoon, is that there is no room for weakness and any complaint or pushback against bullying is seen as being weak. How can Martin walk back into that locker room and expect to be treated well by his teammates?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a proponent of bullying whether it be in a locker room of an NFL team or the hall of the school down the street. It isn’t necessary. However, I also know that Martin won’t be able to just walk back into that locker room and expect to be well received even if all the other teammates think Incognito is an intolerable jerk.
Martin’s decision to leave the team and the fallout from that decision will continue to reverberate in the Dolphins’ locker room for the rest of the season and probably into next year. It will also follow Martin around for his career, if he chooses to continue playing football.
This bullying incident isn’t going away anytime soon even with Incognito’s suspension. The questions is, will it affect the team and, if so, how? There are so many questions surrounding the Dolphins right now it could easily affect the way they play the game. Will McKinnie and Garner and the rest of the offensive line be able to protect Tannehill? Will the reverberations be felt within the coaching staff or front office? Will the NFL get involved? Will other players be suspended? There are so many questions that still have to be answered and each answer could have a resounding ripple effect through the team.
For now, Dolphins fans have to wonder what shoe drops next while hoping their team can stay in the playoff hunt. This is hardly what the team, its players, fans, front office and coaching staff were hoping for after a fairly strong off-season and 3-0 start but this is what they have to deal with.