Just how long has the Dolphins’ locker room been a hostile work environment?
Perhaps since at least 2008.
On Oct. 28, not long after Jonathan Martin dramatically left the team, he received a text message from teammate Nate Garner.
“Hey bro if u need to talk to anyone I’m here for ya,” Garner wrote, according to the report done by Ted Wells that was commissioned by the NFL. “I have been dealing with this [expletive] for 6 years. I hope ur doin ok.”
Here’s why that is relevant: Neither Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey nor John Jerry were on the team before 2010.
That suggests that the three linemen Wells said engaged “in a pattern of harassment” didn’t adversely change the culture of the Dolphins’ locker room, but instead continued behavior that was in place before they arrived.
Efforts to reach Garner’s camp since Wells’ report was made public Friday have been unsuccessful.
Garner, like Jonathan Martin, was apparently picked on for being different. Martin is sensitive and viewed as highly educated. Garner, meanwhile, was seen as a “nerd” for his interest in computers and remote-control helicopters.
Martin, some said, was actually treated better than Garner, because he started. Garner and former Dolphins lineman Josh Samuda “seemed to get it worse,” Wells found.
Garner was so sick of the remarks that he wouldn’t participate in group texts with the rest of the offensive line out of fear that they would respond with derision.
Furthermore, the verbal abuse wasn’t limited to Garner‘s teammates. Even his position coach was apparently involved.
A text message conversation between Incognito and former Dolphins lineman Jake Long explained:
Incognito: “Excited for tonight, Nate is on the verge of killing us all.”
Long: “Good man It will be a good one for u guys tonight. Haha. What r u guys doing to Nate.”
Incognito: “Since we cut samuda we have been non stop on nate. Even turner is in on it. He looks like he’s about to cry 24/7.”
Long: “Hahahaha. He’s gonna go crazy one of these days.”
Incognito acknowledged to Wells’ staff that Garner was often a target of ridicule. Garner owned several guns, and so a running joke in the locker room was that he would snap one day and shoot up the Dolphins’ training facility.
Garner, unlike some others interviewed by Wells, apparently did not demand anonymity. His account of the Dolphins’ locker room was on the record.
Despite the abuse, he told Wells that Incognito is a “good teammate” and a “leader in the locker room.”
Furthermore, Garner told investigators that the interaction between Incognito and Martin was always positive, and he didn’t see any distress in the relationship. He added that Martin handled his departure from the team inappropriately.
The history of offensive comments wasn’t enough to run Garner out of town. He signed a new three-year contract last March to remain in Miami.
Garner told Wells that he was able to handle the mocking better than Martin because of the support of his fiancée, while Martin was more on his own.