TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett lined up across from then- St. Louis guard Richie Incognito twice a year for four years and got to know a little about the man. Dockett hated what he saw.
“His whole makeup is to play dirty and hurt guys,” Dockett saId.
“Every play. That’s what he does. I just don’t know how he got away with that for so long.”
With that as background, Dockett and several of his veteran Cardinals teammates were deeply saddened but not surprised that Incognito, who graduated from Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, was identified as being a serial hazer to Miami teammate Jonathan Martin, a second-round pick in the 2012 draft. Martin left the Dolphins last week.
“A disgrace,” Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby said of Incognito’s acts.
Dockett said Incongito’s bullying is “bigger than trying to hurt other guys” because of its possible implications.
“You’re trying to hurt guys on your team mentally, which sometimes could be actually worse than trying to hurt a guy physically,” Dockett said. “You never know. That guy could have been going through a lot of depressed moments in his life and went outside and done some harm to himself because of a bullying situation.”
Dockett then self-censored and began speaking about the Cardinals’ game against Houston on Sunday. The Cardinals (4-4) can go over .500 for the second time this season and take another step forward in the wild-card race.
“I don’t want to talk about that guy any more. Wasting my time,” he said.
Dansby played with Martin in Miami last season and called him a quiet, attentive rookie who was doing his best to fit in. Martin, 6-foot-5 and 313 pounds, attended Stanford and is the son of Harvard-educated parents, both attorneys.
“He didn’t bother anybody. He liked to have fun, a happy-go-lucky guy. Wanted to be part of the crew. Unfortunately this situation took place. It’s sad,” said Dansby, who spent the last three seasons with the Dolphins.
“All of us went through rookie hazing. We didn’t have any problems. It brought everybody together. I guess it kept carrying over and he (Martin) got tired of it. It’s tough, man. We were family down there. If I was in that situation, I would have had to step in and say something. It’s unbelievable, to be honest.”
Cardinals rookie running back Stepfan Taylor, who ran behind Martin for a pair of 1,300-yard rushing seasons in 2011-12 at Stanford, said he has not attempted to reach out to his former teammate.
“The best thing I feel I can do is give him time,” Taylor said. “You don’t want to hound somebody that is in a situation like that. Give him time. Give him space. I don’t know what’s going on, so I can’t come in asking questions that might hurt him. I hate to see that on the news. You just pray for him. You know the nature of the locker room. Things happen.”
The Cardinals are not immune to hazing, but Dockett said it involves the more general stuff asked of rookies — singing a song at training camp, toting luggage, carrying water, buying the occasional meal.
“We don’t do the bully thing,” Dockett said. “We give our rookies a hard time, but we don’t call them out by name. We don’t do anything we wouldn’t want done to us. We give a haircut and (have them) bring breakfast and carry water, real basic stuff.”
It is about building camaraderie for a long season, after all.
“We still understand that is one of our teammates, and we are going to need him at some point,” Dockett said. “We want them to look at us like big brothers. We don’t want them looking at us like they we enemies. That’s not how you build chemistry. I would never do that to a young guy, and I would never allow any one of my teammates to do that to a young guy.”