Commentary | Super Bowl champs Henry Lawrence and Tyrone Williams say Miami locker room not typical of NFL teams

November 6, 2013 

Richie Incognito is a highly paid bully who was allowed to operate unchecked.

The Miami Dolphins offensive lineman tossed racial slurs and death threats at teammate Jonathan Martin and with some other veterans extorted money from rookies, reports say.

But this is more than just about a locker-room mentality.

Bullying has become a horrific phenomenon in our country that has led to suicides and other personal tragedies.

It hit Manatee High in 2001 when James Brier was killed in a fight amid reports that it was in part the result of hazing he endured.

The parents never forget, and the pain never goes away.

The National Football League needs to take a stand. It should ban Incognito for life.

If the league shows it will not tolerate bullying amid the violent game it promotes, it sends a strong message to our youngsters.

Henry Lawrence says what has happened in the Dolphins locker-room is not what he experienced.

Lawrence is a tough guy. He spent 13 years and won three Super Bowls with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders during a career that spanned from 1974 through 1986.

He played for Manatee High in 1969 during the school's first year of integration and at times saw human nature at its worst.

The Raiders in Lawrence's days were brutally physical on the field but never engaged in the kind of rookie hazing that is popular today with some teams. Lawrence said his coach, John Madden, would not allow it, and owner Al Davis would not tolerate it.

"We never harassed the rookies. We had fun stuff where they had to get on a table and sing a song, but if they didn't want to do it that was OK," Lawrence says. "We had veterans who were in charge, and if a rookie got out of line, they would talk to him. It was a different mentality. It was fun stuff; maybe they had to a throw a party for the team."

Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy said he didn't allow hazing. Pittsburgh Steelers seven-time Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu said the Rooney family that owns the team does not allow it.

Former Manatee great Tyrone Williams urges the NFL to become pro active.

"I think this is a great opportunity for the league to step and put in bylaws to stop that be

havior. A lot of young kids look up to NFL players, and it would trickle down to them," said Williams, who played for Green Bay, Atlanta and Dallas and has won a Super Bowl and NCAA national title (Nebraska).

Being a first-round pick in 1974, Lawrence was the highest-paid rookie, but no one tried to separate him from his money like has been reported in Miami, where Martin said he was coerced into giving Incognito $15,000 to finance a trip to Las Vegas.

"It's shocking to me that a guy would threaten to kill somebody. It is unacceptable, and the $15,000 is ridiculous. That is an abuse of the rookies," Lawrence says.

Some old-school thinking tough guys have called Martin out for not handling it like a man and confronting Incognito instead of going to team authorities.

If Martin had confronted and even punched Incognito, could we be assured this would not have escalated to an incident that would include guns?

"Martin did the right thing. It's pretty childish what was said, but it's serious because of the kinds of things that are going on in our society," Lawrence says. "The law is always the first route to go, and kids need to know that."

Williams said Green Bay did not allow hazing, while Atlanta and Dallas did it on a limited basis doing things like cutting a player's hair and tying them to the goal posts.

"There are lot of shootings going around in society, so I think Martin should've took it to his head coach or his position coach. To go to the player makes it worse; keep it in house, and don't use social media," Williams says.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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