Bears receiver Brandon Marshall is one of the more thoughtful football players out there. He's no boy scout, but he's been remarkably public with his struggles with mental illness. So when he has something to say about Jonathan Martin's difficulties with the locker-room culture, he's worth listening to.
"Take a little boy and a little girl. A little boy falls down and the first thing we say as parents is ‘Get up, shake it off. You’ll be OK. Don’t cry.’ When a 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. You can’t show that you're hurt, you can’t show any pain. So for a guy to come into the locker room and he 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."
From ESPN's anonymous survey, it sounds like most players aren't OK with what Richie Incognito is accused of doing. Yet strikingly few active players—Terrelle Pryor is a notable exception—will put their names behind the idea that sometimes this "show no weakness" mindset is taken too far. Marshall is able to articulate what many of this silent (perhaps) majority would love to say—if not for the fear of being ostracized.
"What’s going on in Miami goes on in every locker room. But it’s time for us to start talking. Maybe have some group sessions where guys sit down and maybe talk about what’s going on off the field or what’s going on in the building and not mask everything. Because the longer it goes untreated, the worse it gets."