Martin-Incognito Bullying Problem Not Evident With Ravens

Posted on November 06, 2013 by Joe Platania

OWINGS MILLS -- The sights were strange, but they used to be a staple of the football subculture.

Rookies taped to goalposts and doused with baby powder and sports drinks. High-priced, big-name newcomers thrown into kiddie pools. Undrafted rookies, with their arms and legs taped in a restraining manner, thrown into cold tubs and completely immersed.

It's called hazing, and it happened under the Ravens' first two head coaches, Ted Marchibroda and Brian Billick.

One memorable scene was when linebacker Ray Lewis helped throw a restrained Troy Smith, fresh off his Heisman Trophy-winning season, into a kiddie pool during his rookie training camp. "How's that, Mr. Heisman?" Lewis yelled as teammates cheered.

But when John Harbaugh took over as head coach before the 2008 season, he put a stop to all that and instituted a culture change.

Ravens 2013: John Harbaugh

Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

"When we first got here, we said that we're not a hazing team," Harbaugh said. "Anyone [new] who comes into our [team] room is a teammate. ... Our guys do a great job with that.

"The young guys have to buy chicken for the road trips."

Innocuous activities such as treating teammates to breakfast or carrying shoulder pads off the field after practice are as drastic as it gets these days, and that's a welcome change considering what has happened in other locales.

Old-fashioned behavior bordering on physical abuse is no longer considered funny or part of the landscape, so an incident such as the kind in Miami that led to Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin leaving the team and guard Richie Incognito being suspended wouldn't happen in Baltimore.

Reportedly, Incognito needled Martin about his weight in front of his teammates in the practice-facility cafeteria, an occurrence that was apparently the final straw in a pattern of racist and bullying behavior Incognito had directed at the player who worked directly to his left on the Dolphins' offensive line.

Earlier, a voice-mail message from Incognito to Martin was allegedly filled with racist and vulgar language, another piece of evidence against Incognito, who reportedly has had a pattern of violent and abusive on- and off-field behavior at both the professional and collegiate levels.

But, by all appearances, nothing even resembling the Dolphins' dilemma has been evident at the Ravens' headquarters. Wide receiver Torrey Smith emphatically said a bullying incident couldn't happen in Baltimore.

Harbaugh agreed.

"We tell our guys to help someone out [if they have a problem]," Harbaugh said. "If you see someone alone at a [cafeteria] table, go have lunch with him. ... We also have a very good mentoring program."

Former Ravens linebacker and current CBS Sports Network analyst Bart Scott was emphatic when asked on CBS Radio what would happen if a Raven engaged in that type of behavior.

"It's no way," Scott said. "[The bully] would have got a swift kick in the butt and would have been thrown out the door. It's no way we would've allowed him to come in here.

"If he would've came in, we would have snatched the Ravens patch off his chest, kicked him in his butt and told him he wasn't welcome here, and let everybody know that he wasn't welcome here."

Player development director Harry Swayne, the starter at right tackle on the Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV-winning team in 2000, runs the mentoring program, one that helps young players adapt to the professional lifestyle and older players prepare for life after football.

When it comes to the bullying problem, running back Ray Rice has been involved with anti-bullying initiatives all over Baltimore, with print and broadcast public-service announcements aimed at eliminating the problem.

Many young players are entering an age when hazing and bullying are being discouraged in the game, but the 51-year-old Harbaugh recalled a time when such activity came with the territory.

"When I was in school, we were taped to goalposts and stuffed in lockers," Harbaugh recalled. "... A lot of the things that happened then probably wouldn't be allowed today. ... I would hope that, in our society today, we'd be all over this."

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