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DeFranks: What happens in the cafeteria (Nov. 5)

Matthew DeFranks | Monday, November 4, 2013

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.
What happens in the cafeteria stays in the cafeteria? Apparently not.
A different side of the football fraternity reared its head this week when Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the team after some teammates teased him in the cafeteria. He missed Miami’s Thursday night win over Cincinnati with what was being called an “illness.”
Martin is reportedly seeking emotional help during his absence from the team and his return date is unknown.
But this incident brings out more questions than, “When is Martin coming back to play football and smash into other 300-pound men that are trying to drag people to the ground?”
What was said to him? Was there something done to him as well? Is this a common thing in the NFL? Is this a common thing with the Dolphins? Has Martin been teased a lot before? How much stress are these players under?
These questions are not the ones Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wants to answer this week. Instead of tossing love and support out to Martin through the media, Philbin probably would enjoy having his right tackle back on the team – which, by the way, won for the first time since the government closed.
Teammates sounded like they would welcome back Martin with open arms if or when he returns to the ‘Fins, even if they were the ones who started this madness in the first place.
According to reports, Martin was called a “big weirdo,” among other things, which likely were not fit for print nor television. No one knows what situation in which was said, or with what tone or even if Martin responded. But the fact is that those two words got out.
What happened in the cafeteria did not stay in the cafeteria.
More reports surfaced Sunday that Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito was the man to blame and the Dolphins have suspended him indefinitely. Incognito reportedly told Martin to pay for a $15,000 trip to Las Vegas for the offensive line that Martin was not even going to.
What was going to happen in Vegas did not stay in Vegas.
Now, every opposing defensive lineman will be taunting Martin with “big weirdo” jabs or “crybaby” jokes. Every coach will think that if Martin cannot take teasing from his own teammates, will he be able to handle me yelling at him?
Martin may always be known as “that one guy who left the salad bar after his teammates called him names” even though he went to Stanford and had started the first 23 games in his career. Unless he comes back as a Pro Bowler, his career could be defined by this bizarre incident.
But is coming back to the NFL really such a good move for a 24-year-old man with emotional issues?
At a time like this, you have to think about the person before you think about the football player. Clearly, Martin is. If he wasn’t, he would have suited up for Miami on Thursday. No one but Martin knows what he is going through and if he thinks some time off is best, it probably is.
But this is not something you can put a timetable on.
He did not tear his ACL, break his collarbone or suffer a concussion. You do not know if he is out for nine months, four weeks or five days. He probably does not even know. Just like you do not know what mood you will wake up in tomorrow morning, Martin does not know if his issues will be resolved.
I do not personal know Martin and have no idea if he truly is a “big weirdo.” But if he is, he is the Dolphins’ “big weirdo.”
He is Philbin’s “big weirdo.” He is the offensive line’s “big weirdo.” He is the fans’ “big weirdo.”
And that does not have to stay in the cafeteria.
Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu
 The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.