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3 posts from February 27, 2014

February 27, 2014

Mike Pouncey is in the Dolphins future

In the days following the release of the Ted Wells report there were questions what the Dolphins would do with center Mike Pouncey.

Would they trade Pouncey because he was implicated, along with Richie Incognito and John Jerry, as the alleged tormentors of Jonathan Martin?

Would they cut Pouncey?

Would they bring Pouncey back regardless of possible NFL sanctions (read suspension) for his part in the scandal?

Well, we have the answer, beyond the idea that Pouncey is not on the trade block, which I reported Feb. 17 wasn't an immediate issue:

The Dolphins are committed to Mike Pouncey. Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey told WMEN's Orlando Alzugaray Thursday that he has spoken with Pouncey in the past month and "is excited about the future."

And according to a club source, both Hickey and Dolphins executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte met with Pouncey's agent Joel Segal while at the Indianapolis Combine last week and shared a similar sentiment from the club.

That doesn't mean all is settled.

Right now, Pouncey is scheduled to hit the final year (2014) of his fully guaranteed $9.259 million rookie deal. That deal will pay Pouncey $1.63 million in 2014. But the Dolphins are able to pick up an option year on Pouncey in May that would tie him to the team for a fifth year through 2015.

The Dolphins fully intend to pick up that option, according to a club source.

But here's the thing: Pouncey, perhaps the second-best player on the Dolphins offense and the only player left from the offensive line of the past two seasons, doesn't necessarily want to play under his rookie deal for a fifth year.

Pouncey will want an extension.

So what will happen at that point?

Two options: The Dolphins, not needing more holes on the offensive line, will have to entertain the extension idea (very likely). Or the Dolphins might consider trading Pouncey then (not very likely, but it's an option that cannot be dismissed).

All that isn't an issue now but the matter will have to be addressed before the 2014 regular-season begins.

The key short-term issue is waiting on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to see if he hands down any disciplinary action against Pouncey -- not to mention Jerry and Incognito -- to determine if the only remaining starting offensive lineman on the Dolphins roster will have to serve a suspension.

On that issue, Pouncey has heard unofficially from the NFL Players Association that he is not likely to get suspended, according to a source. But, of course, the NFLPA doesn't determine whether there is or isn't a suspension from the league.

So that remains the most important question on the table. Until it isn't.

Teams asking about Dolphins locker room at Combine

You know that the Indianapolis Combine gives teams a chance to meet with college prospects and in those meetings the strangest questions get asked. My particular favorite this year is one player was asked which team he picks to play as in Madden and why.

Well, as the Dolphins harassment scandal was a top issue around the league last year, teams apparently are wanting to gauge how potential draft picks would handle being in a similar situation. That is why multiple NFL teams asked prospects how they would handle being put in a locker room situation like the one in Miami.

One player who was asked about the Dolphins locker room situation was Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins, according to OnlyGators.com.

"They also ask personal questions about your family, how you would conduct yourself in the locker room," Watkins told the website. "A lot of teams asked about how I would handle a situation like what happened with the Miami Dolphins. They're trying to get a feel of how you could react to certain situations being in a locker room with other players who might have different perspectives, be more aggressive or more passive."

Players this year were prepared for questions about Michael Sam, the first NFL prospect to announce he is homosexual. Watkins was ready for the questions about possibly having a gay teammate. But no one went there, according to him.

"I was prepared for them to ask questions about Michael Sam or handling a situation like that in a locker room, but no one brought it up or asked about it," he said.

I can understand the questions about the Dolphins situation. But here's my opinion:

The Dolphins locker room dynamics between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin was an outlier. In that one situation you had an extremely volatile player who has a history of drug and alcohol use and an inability to control himself -- against anger and other undisciplined behavor -- on the one hand. And on the other hand you had an extremely sensitive, weak and (now we come to find out) depressed individual with little self-esteem.

And those two were brought together, indeed, pushed together because they played on the same side of the offensive line and needed to work together and be together. And as time passed, each player's greater instincts got stronger.

Incognito became more aggressive and over-bearing. Martin became more isolated and unable to impose his will on the situation.

And what looked outwardly like a friendship of some sort was actually a freakship that no one really understood -- perhaps not even the two guys involved in the relationship.

Tyson Clabo: Wells report not 'accurate'

Before the Wells report was released players in the Dolphins locker room almost universally defended what was going on within the confines of meeting rooms and closed practices and off-limit lunch rooms and other areas.

Since the Wells report peeled back the curtain on what happened in those areas -- specifically that people were being bullied and verbally abused, according to the report -- players such as John Denney and Ryan Tannehill have continued to defend the Dolphins locker room.

Add offensive tackle Tyson Clabo to that group. Clabo, a thoughtful veteran who joined the Dolphins in 2013, read the report and said today on SiriusXM NFL radio he doesn't believe the Wells report is accurate.

"I don't think the people that were around those situations, that were in that report, feel that was an accurate portrayal of the spirit of those events," Clabo said. "Those things in that report probably happened, I mean there were some that I wasn't there for, so I can't say for sure. But I don't see that there was, you know, harassment for the sake of harassment.

"No one is trying to hurt anyone's feelings. It's just, I don't know, it's a locker room. It's a situation that people in the every day won't understand. So when they read that report it's difficult for them to comprehend what goes on every day."

Clabo defended people the report made to look poorly. He defended offensive line coach Jim Turner, who the report said sometimes saw his players chide Jonathan Martin. The report also states Turner sometimes laughed and joined in.

Clabo defended trainer Kevin O'Neill, who the report states was aware of abuse of an assistant trainer and did not report it.

Both Turner and O'Neill were fired by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

"I feel bad for coach Turner, for Kevin O'Neill, those are the guys I really feel bad for because Jim Turner is one of the best football coaches I've had the pleasure of being around and for him to lose his job over that whole thing is unfortunate for him and his family," Clabo said.

Interestingly, Clabo doesn't feel quite so bad about Martin (neither do most Dolphins players, which is the reason he's never playing for the Dolphins again) but wishes his fellow tackle would have handled his troubles differently.

"I've been in a lot of situations, I've been in the league a long time, and when I was here and what I saw ... I saw two guys who were buddies," Clabo said of the Martin-Richie Incognito relationship. "And really the thing that I wished had happened is I wished [Martin] had come to us and said, 'Hey I'm having a problem.' Then we could have worked it out. But that wasn't the path he took and this is what happened and there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to move forward. And that's what I'm going to do. And I hope that's what people who were affected by this are going to do. And at the end of the day, you have to be wiser and learn from this."

Clabo is scheduled to be a free agent on March 11. I'm told he would like to return to Miami but obviously will go elsewhere if the Dolphins move in a different direction -- which it looks like they want to do. Clabo, who will be 33 years in October old but expects to play in 2014, says it's too bad if the Dolphins decide to make decisions on getting rid of some people based on the harassment scandal. 

"If it's time for me to go somewhere else, then that's what I'll do," he said. "Whenever you have a situation like this it's kind of unprecendented and everybody feels they have to throw the baby out with the bath water. And that's fine. Coach Philbin is a good man, a good football coach. He'll get it figured out."