Lions coach Jim Caldwell answers a question during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis on Thursday. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Indianapolis — Lions head coach Jim Caldwell didn’t want to make any direct references to the toxic locker room relationship that existed last season in Miami between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, but he made his feelings clear on hazing.
It’s not going to be allowed in his locker room.
“One of the things that’s important is that we understand is the guys who come into our locker room are there to help us and help us win,” Caldwell said. “We have to try to make certain hazing does not exist in that atmosphere.”
Caldwell said he will address the topic during his first full-team meeting April 7.
“That obviously will be something we will be emphasizing in terms of our philosophy,” he said.
Caldwell’s teams in Indianapolis were mostly tight-knit units with strong veteran leadership. He was part of a similarly united and cohesive locker room in Baltimore.
“We (head coaches) are responsible for everything,” Caldwell said. “We are responsible for wins and losses, we’re responsible for the conduct of the coaching staff and the players, as well. That’s how we’re judged. So we’re going to make certain we understand that and do everything we can to make sure it goes in the direction we like.”
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who was the first coach to speak Thursday, admitted he was too slow to react to the issues that built up between Incognito and Martin. Those issues led to an NFL-mandated investigation and a 144-page report detailing the verbal abuse and bullying of Martin and another player.
Incognito was suspended. Martin left the team. The trainer and an assistant coach were fired.
"I think you can imagine that when I read the report that you have, and I got the report at the same minute you got it, some of the facts, the behavior, the language that was outlined in the report was inappropriate and it's unacceptable,” Philbin said. “As I mentioned earlier, I’m the one that's in charge of the workplace."
Philbin vowed to change the way he monitors the locker room.
"We're going to make it better,” he said. “We're going to look at every avenue, uncover every stone and we're going to have a better workplace. I promise you that. I'm going to make sure that happens."
Philbin was asked specifically what he planned to do to improve the situation.
"I have to do a better job,” he said. “I'm going to look at every way, the way we educate, the way we communicate, the way we talk to one another. I'm going to look at every avenue. We have a lot of dedicated, committed people in our organization, in our building, who make a lot of sacrifices every single day when they got to work.
“I have to make sure we create a better atmosphere and a better environment … I'm going to be more vigilant, I’m going to be more diligent, I'm going to be more visible, and I'm going to have a better pulse."