Former Incognito teammate: He was 'immature, unrealistic scumbag'
Former NFL TE Cam Cleeland, hazed as a rookie in New Orleans and later teammates with Richie Incognito in St. Louis, understands what Jonathan Martin is going through.
Cam Cleeland knows what it's like to get hazed. Fifteen years ago, he was a rookie with the Saints and he almost lost vision in his eye after being hit with a bag of coins as he made his way through "the gauntlet," an annual rite of passage for newbies.
"Guys were just rabid," Cleeland told the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer. "And you had a couple guys in the front that would stand in a three-point stance, and you would fire off the line like he was going to knock you over.
"You tried to make it through [the gauntlet], and they literally just beat the ever-loving crap out of you as you tried to get through. Everything you can imagine, from kicking, punching, scrapping. I remember my ankle was sore and I had missed two days of practice because I had rolled my ankle."
Cleeland said he was also punched in the nose, kicked in the leg and hit in the face with a coin-filled sock that has left him with only partial vision in one eye.
The hazing may have never come to light if Cleeland hadn't missed a preseason game.
"All the media saw me standing on the sideline with a black eye," he said. "It was, 'What the hell happened? He wasn't on the injury report.' It probably would have been covered up."
Fifteen years later, Cleeland still has issues with the way the organization handled the matter.
"Coach [Mike] Ditka gave me a speech as soon as it was done," he recalled. "He was like, 'Oh, man, you should have just popped those guys in the mouth.' I said, 'Coach, there were 60 of them.'"
Cleeland was with the Rams when they drafted Richie Incognito and he sensed early on that Incognito was trouble.
"I'm not afraid to say that he was an immature, unrealistic scumbag," he 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."
Cleeland also doesn't understand why some players think, like Ditka did years ago, that Martin should have retaliated with violence.
"Any NFL player that gives Martin a hard time -- I don't know him -- but any guy who says, 'This guy should have been a tough guy, should have stood up to him,' it's BS," he said. "I don't care if you're a good guy or not, you don't deserve that kind of treatment in any workplace. You've got to be tough. We're all tough guys. But in the end, you're still a human being. ...
"This guy [Martin] was probably feeling threatened and bothered by [Incognito] from day one. He let it simmer and let it go and finally, instead of going to the coaches. ...
Cleeland continued: "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 has been suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins and Martin, who left the team last week, is currently in California undergoing counseling.
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