Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin loves playing football.
But what a source told FOX Sports was an abusive environment that developed during Martin’s 1 1/2 seasons with the Dolphins led to him taking a personal leave of absence to spend time with his family.
Martin left Dolphins headquarters on Monday when finally reaching his limit with the persistent bullying and teasing from some teammates that has plagued him since joining Miami as a 2012 second-round draft choice. As first reported by FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer, the latest taunt – a group of players stood up and left when he tried joining them for lunch – led to Martin getting up himself and walking out the door.
There is no timetable for a return, which could lead Miami to ultimately place him on the reserve/non-football injury list. It also raises questions about his future with the franchise.
This wasn’t an abrupt action by Martin, who is Stanford-educated and the son of two lawyers who attended Harvard University. A source said Martin has tried dealing with a slew of indignities that crossed into personal and family insults, including being bestowed with the nickname of "Big Weirdo."
Knowing his background, the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin probably felt that challenging teammates to fistfights wasn’t the answer to the situation.
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin refused to provide any details about Martin’s absence when asked by the media earlier this week. Miami downgraded Martin from "doubtful" to "out" for Thursday night’s home game against Cincinnati after listing him on their injury report as having an illness.
It’s believed the Dolphins were aware that the cruel actions of some teammates toward Martin went well beyond the customary hazing sometimes given to NFL rookies and youngsters, the source said. Martin experienced some of that when the Dolphins appeared on the 2012 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks.
The Dolphins declined comment to FOX Sports on Thursday night about whether they were aware of the bullying issue allegedly surrounding Martin.
Veteran players also apparently failed to help support Martin and draw a line as to where the bullying should end.
As a result, a Dolphins offensive line that leads the NFL in sacks allowed (32 through seven games) was without one of its best players against a strong Bengals pass rush. The recently-benched Tyson Clabo started at right tackle in place of Martin, who was shifted from left tackle after Miami acquired Bryant McKinnie in a trade with Baltimore.
The NFL Players Association is monitoring the situation and has made inquiries into determining what has happened with Martin, a source told FOX Sports.