Dolphins union rep says fallout from bullying scandal is overblown
In this Aug. 24, 2013, file photo, Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (68) and tackle Jonathan Martin (71) look over plays during an NFL preseason football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
Steven Wine, The Associated Press
Published Monday, February 24, 2014 4:37PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 24, 2014 6:10PM EST
DAVIE, Fla. -- The players' union representative from the Miami Dolphins says the fallout from their bullying scandal is overblown because every NFL team has a similar locker-room culture.
Long snapper John Denney, a nine-year veteran, said Monday he hadn't read the investigative report on the Dolphins case. But any harassment among players is nothing new, he said.
"It's overblown, because this has been my experience with the league my entire career from Day One," Denney said in a telephone interview. "If something needed to be done, it needed to be done a long time ago. It has never escalated. I never saw conditions worsen. I guess we're late in getting to the issue.
"I would be comfortable in saying if you put an investigation on any of the 32 teams in the NFL, you're going to come out with the exact same results."
In a report released Feb. 14, investigators found guard Richie Incognito and two other offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment directed at tackle Jonathan Martin, another offensive lineman and an assistant trainer.
Denney, at 35 the Dolphins' oldest player, said behaviour among players was no different last year than when his NFL career began in 2005. Bullying of rookies was common then, too, he said.
"When I came into the league, I assumed I was going to accept it or find a different line of work," Denney said. "I don't agree with the lifestyles of some of guys on the team, but if I have an issue, I can address it with individual people. If I felt uncomfortable with a situation, I would address it or find something else to do."
Denney made his comments following a celebrity golf tournament organized by former Dolphins star Jason Taylor that included several current Miami players.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said he's confident the necessary changes will be made to ensure a healthy locker-room environment. Tannehill made his first public comments regarding the 144-page report.
"I saw a few pages of it," Tannehill said. "I got overwhelmed by 140-and-whatever pages and skipped it. I'm just glad it's out. The evaluations and summaries have been made, the points have been taken and now we can move forward. There's no more being anxious about it coming out. We've had the consequences and repercussions, and now we can put it in the past and move forward."
The Dolphins fired offensive line coach Jim Turner and longtime head athletic trainer Kevin O'Neill for their roles in the scandal, and coach Joe Philbin pledged to improve the workplace culture.
NFL punishment of players who engaged in harassment may be forthcoming in the form of fines, suspensions or both. Tannehill could find him playing behind an entirely new line to start the 2014 season.
Even so, he considers fallout from the scandal in the past.
"I think it's behind us at this point," he said. "Obviously we'll try to learn from it and correct things coach Philbin and the coaching staff feel need to be changed. We want to have a healthy locker room."
Tannehill, a starter since the first game of his rookie season in 2012, was a member of the team's leadership council last season. But at 25, he said he's still growing into the role of a leader.
"You definitely get more comfortable speaking up at certain times," he said. "You have the respect. That's the big thing -- having the other guys' respect in the locker room. You can't come in with no respect and try to own the place. At this point hopefully I have some respect in the locker room, and now I can assert myself."
Taylor is part of an advisory group formed last fall by team owner Stephen Ross that also includes Tony Dungy, Don Shula, Dan Marino and Curtis Martin. The group, which has yet to meet, will review organizational conduct policies and make recommendations on areas for improvement.
"We have all seen the report," Taylor said. "We know what it says. In the coming days and weeks we will have a discussion about it, and that discussion will stay between me, Mr. Ross and the other members of the committee."