On Tuesday, former Dolphins offensive lineman Lydon Murtha gave his take on the ongoing Richie Incognito–Jonathan Martin bullying saga. While he admitted that the veteran has his flaws, Murtha painted a picture of Incognito that is not nearly as villainous as the one being portrayed in the media.
One day later, another former player weighed in on the controversy, and his take is drastically different.
Cam Cleeland spent seven years in the NFL as a tight end with the Saints, Patriots and Rams, and was with St. Louis when the team drafted Incognito in 2005. He has also experienced firsthand a case of hazing taken too far, having had his eye socket shattered by a sock full of coins while participating in a ritual known as “the gauntlet” as a rookie with New Orleans in 1998.
Cleeland played alongside Incognito for just one season, but he told the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer that the lineman was nothing close to the fair and respected locker-room leader his current Dolphins teammates have described him as.
“I’m not afraid to say that he was an immature, unrealistic scumbag,” Cleeland said. “When it came down to it, he had no personality, he was a locker-room cancer, and he just wanted to fight everybody all the time. It was bizarre beyond belief.”
The former tight end also disagreed with the popular argument that Martin should have confronted Incognito (advice Cleeland says he received from former Saints coach Mike Ditka after the 1998 incident) or informed the Miami coaching staff rather than taking his issues public.
“This guy [Martin] was probably feeling threatened and bothered by [Incognito] from day one,” Cleeland said. “He let it simmer and let it go and finally, instead of going to the coaches. …
“What happens if you go to your coach and say, ‘This guy’s bothering me.’ He’s going to look at you and go, ‘Are you crazy? You wuss. You’re not tough. Get out of my office.’ I’m not saying that’s what would happen with [Dolphins coach Joe] Philbin, because I don’t know, but that’s what’s going to happen with 95 percent of coaches.”
Incognito is currently serving an indefinite suspension pending as the NFL conducts its investigation of the matter.