One of the biggest NFL stories off the field over the last year was the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation in Miami. Martin left the team after dealing with bullying from Incognito. Since Martin left the team, we've heard all sorts of chatter about his situation. People have gone to the well about keeping things in the locker room, and the traditions of rookie hazing. I feel like socalisteph provided a helpful explanation for why rookie hazing to that extent is problematic. She discussed Jim Harbaugh's work at Stanford, and Bill Walsh's thoughts on hazing.
The San Francisco 49ers acquired Martin this offseason in exchange for a conditional seventh round pick. It should surprise nobody that some of Martin's ex-teammates are not entirely enamored with him. Former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder recently spoke about Martin, and rolled out some of the usual lazy cliches:
"[I]t's been happening and Jonathan Martin just wasn't tough enough to deal with it. So he kind of almost destroyed a culture that was going on since ... the NFL-AFL merger when was that, the '70s? My dad played in the NFL, I've talked to guys older than my father who played in the NFL and it was just a total 'bull' society.
"If you are a Pro Bowl player, if you are big, you can talk however you want. The little rookie has to earn his respect. Nowadays, Jonathan Martin is getting (paid) with the 49ers because he was bullied in the NFL. I think that's ridiculous. ... There is a type of person that is made to play at that level and if you can't take criticism and you can't learn from it and strive from it, you shouldn't be in the NFL."
Crowder is unhappy Martin "kind of almost destroyed a culture" that is fine with this. I know plenty of people don't have a problem with it, but I do. Teams can come together and win without treating others like crap. It's the basic notion of bullying, and the Martin-Incognito situation showed it can happen to a small high school player or a big ol' offensive lineman.
Crowder decided to double down on his comments in discussing Martin's future opponents:
"You cannot let Jonathan Martin dominate you as an NFL player now," Crowder said. "With him quitting on the team, with him being — perception is reality — with him being as soft as he is and ... how another grown man's words could make you quit on your team, there is not going to be anybody that is going to let him dominate them. If anybody goes against Jonathan Martin, they have no respect for him. So he is going to get everybody's best. Even as a starter he wasn't that good so now you are getting everybody's best shot and you are a mediocre guy? He's going to be out of the league in a little while. He's (getting paid) until the 'Bullygate' thing dies down because Roger Goodell doesn't want to start a storm because this guy got cut because he wasn't tough enough and now you have to answer those questions."
I think Crowder's comments come across petty and a bit like a Neanderthal, but I do wonder how opposing players will approach Martin in the preseason. Will we see players get a little more physical with him after the play, and try and get in his head? Will teams push him during the whistle and see what they can make of him? I'd imagine there will be plenty of smack talk throughout the game. Martin will likely be facing second and third team defensive linemen, although depending on how much Joe Staley and Anthony Davis play, Martin could end up seeing some first team action at tackle.
Personally, the notion "respect" for another player does not really bother me one way or another. When it comes to the OL-DL battle, the physicality and skill will make all the difference. Martin struggled in Miami, but he remains a talented offensive lineman. There will not be a lot of pressure on him in San Francisco. Sure he needs to bust his butt to earn a roster spot, but he is not expected to move into the starting lineup if everybody remains healthy. He is in a perfect situation to resurrect his career. It's on him to do so, but if it's going to happen anywhere, it will be with Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers.