Ex-Bears GM Jerry Angelo shocked at severity of Incognito situation
By Adam L. Jahns, Patrick Finley and Mark Potash Staff Reporters
In his 31 years in the NFL, former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said he never saw locker-room bullying, much less anything close to what got Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito suspended indefinitely Sunday.
‘‘I’m just shocked at how bad it might have gotten [with Incognito],” he told the Sun-Times.
“I’d be shocked if you got anybody that’s been in the league for a while that would say anything different.
“We’ve seen guys that have anger problems. We’ve seen guys have emotional issues, so they don’t get along with anybody. But not to this degree. This is a special situation.
‘‘I went through steroids. I went through gangs. I saw a lot of stuff. I saw a lot of changes in people and the lies. Some were drug-related.
“Some were just the fact that their environment [was difficult].
“But nothing like this.’’
Incognito was suspended after leaving threatening text messages and a voicemail that included racial slurs for second-year teammate Jonathan Martin.
Martin left the team last week after a lunch-room incident, sparking a national discussion about the pervasiveness, cruelty and, perhaps, criminality of bullying in the NFL.
Bears past and present called it an isolated incident in the league.
When first-year coach Marc Trestman was hired, he forbade rookie degradation. Legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant, for whom Trestman coached, influenced his no-hazing approach.
At his introductory news conference in January, Trestman vowed the Bears would have “respect for the game, respect for our opponent and respect for each and every man and woman that walks into” Halas Hall.
Training camp still featured occasional pranks on, and chores performed by, first-year players. Some rookies bought bulk snacks or smokeless tobacco for teammates — nothing like the accusation Incognito made Martin pay $15,000 to finance a Las Vegas trip that Martin didn’t even attend.
There’s a common-sense line that was crossed, quarterback Jay Cutler said on his weekly radio show.
“It gets to a certain point where you count on these guys to win games, and you’ve got to bring them as they are — your brothers — and you’re going toward a common goal,” he said. “It’s hard to do that when you’re putting a wedge between players.”
Rookie right guard Kyle Long had a tarantula placed in his bed in camp and will likely split an offensive-line dinner bill with fellow first-year player Jordan Mills later this year.
Jason McKie, a Bears fullback from 2003 to ’09, said NFL traditions of rookies bringing food and buying dinner are standard.
“But when more details came out [about Incognito], I was like, ‘Wow. This is getting deeper,’ ’’ he said. “This sounds like a guy who’s continually harassing another player, especially when racial connotations come into it.’’
Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Olin Kreutz stressed respect while McKie was a player. He got the same feeling when he visited Halas Hall last week.
“I mean, we’re all grown men,” he said.