There’s always been hazing in football, but tearing someone down crosses the line, former Miami Dolphins great John Offerdahl said Tuesday, as the NFL continues to investigate Dolphins player Jonathan Martin’s claims that a teammate harassed him.
Allegations surfaced on Monday that Richie Incognito sent Martin racist and threatening text messages. Both have played on the team’s offensive line, but Martin left the Dolphins last week for reasons unrelated to football, according to the team, which suspended Incognito indefinitely on Sunday.
Offerdahl, who was a linebacker for the Dolphins from 1986-1993, said hazing has been a part of football to some extent.
“But there’s always been in my experience a certain level of professional hazing, I guess you’d say, where it doesn’t cross the line. And in the locker room there’s a lot of emotions, but there’s also a lot of leadership,” he told NBC 6. “And so, it’s interesting, because I think once you go past the line and you start tearing down somebody on a team, it’s not good for the whole team, and it’s interesting in this case because it looks like it’s gone past the point of hazing, and we’ll find out. But if that’s the case, there needs to be someone who stands up and kind of keeps everything in check.”
Offerdahl, who was inducted into the Dolphin Honor Roll at Sun Life Stadium during the team’s game last Thursday, said the situation is “a tough thing for the Miami Dolphins.”
He said when locker room hazing “gets past a point of encouragement and fun into something that kind of derides or tears down someone, (it) crosses the line of professionalism.”
NBC 6 asked Offerdahl where he draws the line between good-natured pranks and practical jokes and outright harassment of a teammate.
“It’s a pretty easy line from my perspective. The moment you start tearing somebody down, you cross that line,” Offerdahl said, emphasizing that that is especially so in a team environment.
The Dolphins asked the NFL to conduct a full investigation, and on Tuesday the NFL Players Association said it will monitor that investigation.
Offerdahl addressed whether either player has a future in the league.
“I think the NFL is similar to life. There’s always forgiveness, there’s always grace, and there’s an opportunity to redeem yourself,” he said. “But you gotta be careful, too. We’re all a little bit ill-informed right now, and as this continues to develop, I think there’s always an opportunity to be redeemed.”