ORLANDO, Fla. – Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin received a lot of criticism after allegations of bullying and harassment surfaced in his locker room last season, and some of the condemnation was justifiable.
Philbin was unaware of the treatment Jonathan Martin was receiving by Richie Incognito. His lack of awareness resulted in a fiasco that tarnished the Dolphins organziation as a whole, while raising several questions about what should be acceptable behavior on NFL teams. Incognito became a free agent this offseason, while Martin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers.
Incognito and Martin are gone, and Philbin has learned from that experience.
Philbin said he is ready to have a locker room presence this season, something he did not have in previous years.
"I think it’s important," Philbin said at the NFL owners meetings. "Let’s be honest, guys. Every offseason since I’ve been coaching, I’m going into my 31st year, you always try to think of ways you can do your job better. As I examine some of the things as the head coach of the Dolphins I can do better, I think the visibility factor can be a difference. That’s one of the things I’m going to do."
To be fair, Philbin overlooked a situation few coaches could have seen coming.
Incognito was an over-the-top player who seemingly enjoyed pushing buttons of his teammates. Martin was not the type of person who enjoyed crude attempts at humor. As a result, the relationship exploded as tales of obnoxious behavior and feelings of betrayal dominated national headlines.
Philbin hopes his presence will prevent another incident.
"I think what happens sometimes to coaches is, and you can probably appreciate it, you’re conflicted with should I watch that blitz tape," Philbin said. "Gosh, I got to get that third-down film watched. Sometimes it’s a better use of the head coach’s time to walk through the training room, walk through the locker room, walk through the hallway. It’s not that I’ve never done that stuff, but I think it’s fair to say I’m going to do it more."
Even though Incognito is gone, Dolphins center Mike Pouncey remains on the team.
Pouncey and John Jerry participated in some of the harassment aimed at Martin, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the men involved, including Martin, cannot play again until they are evaluated by a group of professionals for medical and psychological issues. He did not say if any of the players face a league suspension.
Philbin still believes Pouncey is a team leader, but said he has not started thinking about his next leadership council.
"We haven’t gotten there," Philbin said. "The 2014 season hasn’t begun yet. The offseason program does not begin until April 21. Again, I have a lot of faith in the guys in our locker room. I have a lot of faith in Mike Pouncey. We’ll see. In terms of the leadership council and all those things, those are topics I haven’t given a lot of thought to. I haven’t made any commitments to of how I’m going to do it next year, but we’ll certainly give all that ample consideration."
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