Respect, not bullying prevalent in Patriots locker room

Respect, not bullying prevalent in Patriots locker room
November 5, 2013, 11:00 pm
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FOXBORO – Bad days down in Miami. But no team has a right to look at the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin situation and say, “That would never happen here…”

With nearly 60 young men bred to cultivate toughness and lord it over opponents, the chance for some player troubled, immature or just plain mean enough to turn joking into full-on harassment is very real.  
There are outliers in every locker room, and nobody knows that better than the Patriots.
Tuesday, some of the Patriots captains addressed the workplace atmosphere in New England’s locker room.
“It’s a tough question, but I think it always starts at the top,” said Logan Mankins. “When the guy at the top lets you know it’s a business and we’re here to work and everything like that. We have tons of time in there where we’re doing a lot of joking around, messing around. We have a lot of fun with each other, too, but I don’t think it’s ever taken too far.”
The Patriots rookies are subjected to some indignities. Annually, they slide through mud during a training camp practice. Their heads are shaved. They carry the pads of the veterans.
Does that constitute harassment? Or is it good-natured team-building, a minor trial through which they pass that they laugh about and accept as being indoctrinated into the team.

“There’s definitely a fine line,” said Matt Slater. “Case-by-case, every individual is different. With one guy you may be able to push certain buttons and with another guy, maybe you can’t push those same buttons. You have to be sensitive and in-tune to who it is that you’re dealing with, what teammate it is and obviously your relationship with every guy is different. I may have some fun with Julian [Edelman] because him and I live together but another guy that I don’t know as well, you treat him in a different way. It’s case-by-case and you just have to be smart and in-tune to who you’re dealing with.”

Do captains have an increased responsibility to be aware of who is not dealing well with the needling? Or whether the needling is vicious and capable of making the workplace untenable?

“I think that’s part of our responsibility for sure,” said Slater. “I don’t care if you’ve been in this league 20 years or you’ve been in this league three weeks. We respect everybody here and that’s important to us. We respect everybody here because we’re all here for the same reason, trying to accomplish the same goal. We’re all on the same team. Respect is a huge thing for us. I think we have a locker room with a lot of respect. I’m not saying that we don’t have our fun, because there’s a time and a place for that but we always do it within the boundaries of respect.”

Players are conscious of what happens on other teams. They watch TV, read the stories, register opinions. There is an impact.

“When things happen on other teams, whatever it may be, there are lessons to be learned there,” said Slater. “I think sometimes it’s better to learn from someone else’s experience than making that mistake yourself. As you said, I cannot comment on what’s going on down there, [I] don’t know anything about that locker room. All we can do is focus on the guys here and continue the tradition of respect and brotherhood that we’ve had around here since I’ve been here and before I got here and just worry about us. That’s all we can do.”