An NFL having survivor had some harsh words for Richie Incognito. “I’m not afraid to say that he was an immature, unrealistic scumbag. When it came down to it, he had no personality, he was a locker-room cancer, and he just wanted to fight everybody all the time. It was bizarre beyond belief.”
Those are the words of Cam Cleeland who, as an NFL player some 15 years ago, went through a rookie hazing on the first day of training camp.
“Guys were just rabid,” Cleeland told the Los Angeles Times. “And you had a couple guys in the front that would stand in a three-point stance, and you would fire off the line like he was going to knock you over.
“You tried to make it through, and they literally just beat the ever-loving crap out of you as you tried to get through. Everything you can imagine, from kicking, punching, scrapping.”
Cleeland’s case is back on the radar this week as the ugly Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation boils up in Miami. Martin, now in his second season, left the Dolphins last week after allegedly being the victim of repeated, cruel bullying.
Incognito was suspended following the revelation of a voicemail in which he hurled racial slurs at Martin. On Thursday night, Martin’s lawyer, David Cornwell, released a scathing statement in which he said Martin was the victim of a “malicious physical attack,” but did not specify which teammate was involved.
Cleeland’s hazing ended tragically. Andre Royal, a free-agent linebacker, had been collecting pennies all day from teammates and put them in a sock that he would swing wildly at Cleeland. Royal’s blow shattered Cleeland’s eye socket and nearly cost him his eye. He still deals with partial vision.
“I was full of adrenaline at that time,” Cleeland told the paper. “You’re in that fight-or-flight mode, survival mode. You’ve got to get through. So I made it through, and next thing you know my nose is bleeding all over.”
Cleeland, who went on to play eight years in the NFL, would cross paths with Incognito on the Rams when the team drafted the offensive lineman in 2005. He does not sound surprised by some of the reports that now surround Incognito.
“I’m not afraid to say that he was an immature, unrealistic scumbag,” Cleeland said. “When it came down to it, he had no personality, he was a locker-room cancer, and he just wanted to fight everybody all the time. It was bizarre beyond belief.”