With bullying in an NFL locker room all the rage these days, at least in Miami, Jerry Robinson was asked what was the most egregious incident he ever witnessed in his 13 years in the league. It took Robinson almost a second to answer.
“Tony Franklin refused to stand on a chair in the dining hall, place his right hand over his heart, his left hand over his crotch, and sing the Texas (Franklin's alma mater) fight song,” Robinson said. It was 1979. Robinson and Franklin, a bare-foot placekicker, were rookies with the Eagles.
That evening at Philadelphia's training camp at Widener University in Chester, Pa., just before dinner, the rookies noticed Franklin was missing. Gosh, the veterans said, we don't know. A rookie search ensued. Franklin was found.
“He was duct-taped to a goal post, naked,” Robinson said.
How long did Franklin hang like that?
“Wasn't much, maybe a couple, three hours,” Robinson said.
Did Franklin get the message?
“Tony was duct-taped again a couple weeks later,” said Robinson, who will turn 57 Dec. 18.
Did Robinson think a naked Franklin strapped to the yardarm was pushing the boundaries?
“It was funny,” he said.
What Robinson has been reading the past few weeks, however, does not strike him as funny. The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin mess in Miami, that is full of surprises for Robinson. He has followed the story closely. He knows NFL teammates aren't always kind to each other. Six years with the Eagles and seven years with the Raiders showed him that.
“But the locker room is the only place we can be who we want to be,” Robinson said, “and not get criticized or judged. So it's really disturbing to me to see the situation get so out of control it's become international news. This (Incognito-Martin) is an isolated thing. This is not an NFL culture thing.”
True, Robinson can't speak for all NFL locker rooms. But the Dolphins situation is so far in the extreme for him, it defies comparison. Verbally drilling a man with racial epithets — to toughen him up — is something quite apart from what Robinson knows. And if it did occur ...