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 ...
"We had leaders in the locker room that would have never allowed to get it as far as it has in Miami," Robinson said. "In Philly we had Bill Bergey, Ron Jaworski and Harold Carmichael; and I became one as time went on. With the Raiders we had Matt Millen, Marcus Allen, Rod Martin and Ronnie Lott.
"So this is what I want to know now: Where's the leadership in Miami?"
Robinson, a Santa Rosa resident and Cardinal Newman graduate, paused for a second to let the next sentence carry impact.
"Incognito (offensive guard, team captain) told all the offensive linemen to go to a strip club for a meeting," Robinson said.
Robinson rolled his eyes, shook his head. As if he had to say nothing more.
"Yes, you can call a meeting at a strip club," he said, "but there's no telling who you will meet, if you know what I mean. A meeting at a strip club? That's ridiculous. That's unprofessional.
"Imagine if you are an offensive lineman and you are happily married. You don't want to go to a strip club; it's not your thing. But you are ordered to go. So you go. You come home smelling like cigarettes and cheap perfume. Your wife smells all the stuff. You tell her you had a business meeting. Do you think she is going to believe you?