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Brandon Marshall calls for change in NFL’s locker room culture

Updated: November 6, 2013 9:28PM



Brandon Marshall has been in Jonathan Martin’s shoes, treating a mental-health issue two years ago as a member of the Dolphins.

And he’s friendly with Richie ­Incognito.

Finding easy answers in the wake of bullying accusations —Incognito, the Dolphins offensive lineman, was suspended indefinitely Sunday for harassing second-year teammate Martin — is hard for the Bears wide receiver.

But he knows the NFL’s locker-room culture has to change.

Wednesday, he suggested group therapy sessions for teams.

“Look at it from this standpoint,” Marshall said. “You take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down; the first thing we say as parents is, ‘Get up. Shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ When the little girl falls down, what do we say? ‘It’s going to be OK.’ We validate their feelings.

“So right there from that ­moment, we’re teaching our men to mask their feelings, don’t show their emotions. And it’s that times 100 with football players. Can’t show that you’re hurt. Can’t show any pain.

“So for a guy that comes in a locker room and shows a little ­vulnerability, that’s a problem. That’s what I mean by the culture of the NFL. And that’s what we have to change.”

Marshall — who spent the 2011 offseason treating borderline ­personality disorder — said he hopes Martin is “getting the care that he needs.”

Martin left the Dolphins last week to treat emotional distress. He received a voicemail ­message from Incognito that involved threats and racist language.

“We walk around saying the ‘N-word’ as black players, and it’s not right, and we get offended when the white player says it,” Marshall said. “That’s on him — where his heart’s at, when he says it. It doesn’t make it right.

“But we can’t jump down a guy’s throat because he’s saying it and he’s white. Or the black guy’s saying it too. Doesn’t make it right.”

He said such language is “something Richie has to deal with,” but hopes that Incognito returns to the NFL.

Marshall “enjoyed” playing with Incognito and has stayed in touch since being traded to the Bears.

“Sometimes I feel like the NFL, to protect the brand, or the logo of the team, we do things for the ­publicity,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Marshall said reports of ­Incognito charging Martin $15,000 to help fund a Las Vegas trip wasn’t unique; Dolphins linemen had been doing that for years.

As a rookie in Denver, Marshall had to carry helmets or stock a meeting room with sunflower seeds, but nothing scandalous.

“Because it was never done to me — someone throwing me in the cold tub or shaving my head — I don’t do that to my guys,” he said.

He said “crossing that line, disrespecting guys, demeaning guys” doesn’t happen on the Bears.

“I told the team the first night, ‘When you haze somebody, you take their ability to help you win,’ ” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

“We’re not talking about taking a helmet and walking off the field with a helmet. We’re talking about other things.

“The words you use, the way you act, the things you say, affect ­people from all different backgrounds and places.

“We’ve got to understand that the beauty of this game is it draws people from everywhere, from different realities and different perceptions.

“But that can all be neutralized through respect and using the proper language and proper words in the right place and the right time — in this building, on the field and when we’re out in the community.

“Because we represent the ­entire city.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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