As the New England Patriots head into their bye week, football may be the last thing they want to think about for the next five days.
But several are paying close attention to what’s going on in Miami and on Tuesday addressed the atmosphere in their locker room.
Veteran guard Richie Incognito was suspended indefinitely by the Miami Dolphins as they investigate reports that he sent racist and threatening text messages to teammate Jonathan Martin, who left the team a week ago because of emotional issues.
The Dolphins and the NFL are investigating allegations by Martin’s agent that he was bullied. Martin is a second-year pro. Incognito is in his ninth NFL season with his second team. He previously played for the St. Louis Rams.
“I think we have a locker room with a lot of respect,’’ said veteran receiver Matthew Slater. “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.’’
Slater, one of the Patriots’ captains, said the players on every team need to take care of each other.
“I think that’s part of our responsibility,’’ he said, speaking to a group of reporters. “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 goal, trying to accomplish the same goal. We’re all on the same team. Respect is a huge thing for us.’’
Slater said it’s important to remember who you’re dealing with.
“With one guy you may be able to push certain buttons and with another guy, maybe you can’t push those buttons,’’ he said. “You have to be sensitive and in tune with who it is you’re dealing with, what teammate it is and, obviously, your relationship with each guy is different.’’
Rookie safety Duron Harmon, speaking to Doug Kyed of NESN, said he hasn’t been the victim of any hazing and that everyone gets along on the Patriots.
“It’s because we’ve got great teammates, teammates that are good people, are really good people,’’ he said. “You see them walking in the hallway, ‘Hello, how are you doing Duron?’
“That’s the type of atmosphere we have in this locker room. It’s definitely great for rookies because you’re coming to somewhere where you’re not familiar with everybody. But the older guys, the vets, they make you feel really comfortable here.’’
Guard Logan Mankins, also a team captain, said the Patriots’ locker-room culture starts with Coach Bill Belichick.
“I think it all starts at the top, when the guy at the top lets you know it’s a business, and we’re here to work and everything like that,’’ said Mankins. “We have tons of time in there when 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 NFL Players Association released a statement Tuesday saying that the league and teams must provide safe and professional workplaces for all its players and that “owners, executives, coaches and players should set the best standards and examples.’’
Tom Brady said that every locker room is different and added, “I don’t know really anything that happened down there.’’
“We’ve got a great locker room,’’ he said. “We’ve got a lot of great guys. Everyone is just trying to do the best they can for the team.’’
Slater, whose father, Jackie, was one of the best offensive linemen in the league when he played for the Rams, said every team can learn from what’s happening in Miami.
“I think sometimes that it’s better to learn from someone else’s experience than making that mistake yourself,’’ he 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.’’
Mike Lowe can be reached at 791-6422 or at: [email protected] Twitter: MikeLowePPH